How do young people feel about capitalism versus socialism?

By May 1, 2021ISDose

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The political and economic beliefs of Americans are evolving between generations. Case in point: Many young Americans such as Gen Z are viewing capitalism as an economic system less favorably.

At least that’s what we found. To see where Americans stand on these sentiments, Fortune teamed up with SurveyMonkey to poll 2,000 adults in the U.S. between March 11 and 15. While the meaning of “capitalism” and “socialism” vary by person, it’s important for businesses to understand how employees and customers perceive such terms.


So has capitalism actually become a taboo subject? Read on to find out.


The numbers to know 


  • … of U.S. adults say they have a positive view of capitalism. 32% have a negative view of capitalism.


  • … of U.S. adults say they have a positive view of socialism, compared to 55% who have a negative view of socialism.


  • … of U.S. adults say America is a “capitalist nation,” while 13% say it’s a “socialist nation.” Survey respondents self-defined what these terms meant to them.


  • … of U.S. adults say they prefer capitalism as an economic system, while 21% prefer socialism. Another 29% say they don’t know enough to choose.

The big picture

  • America is synonymous with capitalism. Indeed, more than 8 in 10 U.S. adults call the country a “capitalist nation.” Americans who prefer capitalism as an economic system outnumber those who prefer socialism by a 2 to 1 ratio. That said, among young Americans, sentiments are becoming more negative towards capitalism and more positive towards socialism.

A few deeper takeaways


1. Gen Zers view capitalism the least favorably among age groups—but the gap isn’t massive. 


Among baby boomers, 73% hold a positive view of capitalism. That compares to 62% of Gen Xers and 56% of millennials.


Among Gen Zers, we found that 57% hold a positive view of capitalism. That’s a stark contrast from what the stereotype of the generation’s progressive political beliefs would imply.


2. Millennials and Gen Z both view socialism favorably.


The majority of baby boomers (62%) and Gen Xers (58%) hold negative views of socialism.


That’s not the case for young adults. Among millennials, 41% view socialism negatively, but 56% view it positively. Same with Gen Zers: 40% view socialism negatively, but 58% view it positively.


The big question for the future of business: Are these diverging views a result of age (in other words, Gen Zers and millennials will change their views over time) or a signal of a true generational shift in economic thinking?


3. At the end of the day, Gen Z still prefers capitalism as an economic system.


While young Americans hold more favorable views of socialism than their older peers, they still prefer capitalism as a whole. On a net basis, Gen Z (+12 percentage points), millennials (+3 points), Gen X (+31 points), and baby boomers (+41 points) all prefer capitalism when the system is pitted against socialism.


4. Surprise, Republicans love capitalism.


Republicans who favor capitalism outnumber GOPers who favor socialism by a staggering 11 to 1 ratio.


Independent voters prefer capitalism to socialism by a 2 to 1 ratio. Meanwhile, Democrats who favor socialism slightly outnumber Democrats who favor capitalism (36% versus 30%).


Fortune Analytics will soon field a survey to U.S. chief financial officers. If you have suggested questions for our CFO survey, email me at


Lance Lambert


*Methodology: The Fortune-SurveyMonkey poll was conducted among a national sample of 2,000 adults in the U.S. between March 11 and 15. This survey’s modeled error estimate is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points. The findings have been weighted for age, race, sex, education, and geography.