Americans Hate the Label of “Democratic Socialism.” The Concept, Not So Much.


More than half of Americans support Democratic Socialism as the best form of government — as long as it's not labeled as such

*A Democratic Socialist form of government is designed to meet the needs of the general public through a democratically elected government and socially-owned economy. In this form of government, the workers and consumers who are affected by economic institutions own and control them rather than being concentrated among a small number of private owners.


Americans are supposed to have a strong aversion to anything “socialist.” It’s the only difference between us and Europe, right? But... how do we square this with self-described Democratic Socialists like  Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez leading a wave of energy in the Democratic Party?

To resolve this puzzle, we asked Americans whether or not this form of socialism — where workers and consumers own and control the means of production — is the best form of government. Half saw the words Democratic Socialism in the definition; half did not.

The majority of Americans (56%) agree that the idea of Democratic Socialism is the best form of government. Yet when this definition has the label “Democratic Socialism”, support drops 10%. The brand name alone tanks support.

The branding effect is especially pronounced among Republicans. With the “Democratic Socialism” label, 27% agree. Without it 51% agree.

Sanders and AOC’s popularity could be explained by an unmet need: while more than half of Americans agree Democratic Socialism is the best form of government, only 8% think the country currently resembles a Democratic Socialist government.

With 73% of Americans thinking the government should mandate a minimum, livable wage, and two-thirds holding the opinion that wealthy people should be taxed at higher rates, it’s clear that many Americans want the government to play a larger role in the economy.

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