As Bernie Sanders draws 10,000, socialism draws 47 percent

Sometimes, angle is everything. So I was reminded this morning when doing a search on Google News, after remembering a headline I had seen that nearly half of folks surveyed in a recent  poll would vote for a socialist candidate. “Wow,” I thought, “that’s great!”

Imagine my surprise when I saw Gallup’s headline:  “In US, Socialist Presidential Candidates Least Appealing.  Least appealing? With 47 percent open to considering a socialist candidate as an option? Gallup had tallied a number of categories including different religions or lack thereof. A candidate professing socialist beliefs was the least attractive according to the poll.

 But I said to myself, “Okay, Gallup is known for its conservative bent.” That’s their class angle.  I checked some others and as expected conservative rags echoed Gallup’s sentiments.

To me, 47 percent wasn’t bad – that’s my class angle. But perhaps I was being too judgmental. I decided to check further.

Politico followed Gallup’s spin: “Poll: Most Americans unwilling to vote for a socialist.”  I thought they were more centrist in their politics – so much for that.

The Huffington Post was one of the few who at least stated things more factually: “Nearly half of Americans would vote for a socialist for president.”

Gallup’s survey  is interesting. Democrats were most inclined to vote for a  socialist candidate with 59 percent signaling approval. Young folks between the ages of 18 and 30 were far more favorable: 69 percent said they’d cast a ballot for a red. 

Earlier Rasmussen polls in 2009 and 2011 showed  a shift away from Cold War attitudes toward socialism and a greater openness to consider its benefits. Clearly, that trend is deepening.  

Still one can’t ignore that slightly over half of Americans polled said they would not consider voting for a socialist presidential candidate.

However, the conversation is just beginning.  In past years, billions have been spent portraying socialism in a negative light. And then of course there was the collapse of several countries attempting to build what they considered to be socialist societies and the accompanying dismay and disillusion amongst broad sections of the left. 

But a lot has happened since then, both domestically and internationally, and with it new realities and understandings of the world.  As recent events attest, thought patterns have changed significantly. On the one side people have to a certain degree overcome knee jerk reactions to red scare tactics. On the other, there’s more willingness to see socialism in a positive light.  

For example, here at home, President Obama and New York Mayor de Blasio were pilloried by right-wing opponents as socialists without much effect. In fact the opposite of what was intended may have occurred.

That being said, it’s one thing to be red baited and offer plausible deniability and another to be, as Sanders boasts, “a self-described democratic socialist.”

With crowds of 10,000 coming to hear him in Colorado and Wisconsin in recent days, it appears the broad U.S. public is more than ready to give him and his views a fair hearing. And when they hear what he has to say about what a socialist would do to address the country’s problems, like unemployment, student debt, racism and criminalization, housing and health care – watch out! 

Not since the days of Eugene Debs’ bid for the presidency from his prison cell has a socialist candidate garnered so much attention and support. It’s surely being talked about over coffee and beer in working-class homes all over America. As the capitalist press headlines suggest it’s also being discussed in corporate boardrooms. They’re going to give it their class angle: the glass is half empty.

But to workers, progressives, democrats and to the broad  left, the glass is clearly half full. 


Photo: Sanders shakes hands with supporters after speaking at a political rally in Madison, Wisconsin.  Michael P. King/AP & Wisconsin State Journal

This article has been edited and updated. 


Joe Sims
Joe Sims

Joe Sims is co-chair of the Communist Party USA. He is also a senior editor of People's World and loves biking.