Answer: Only 47% percent of Americans would vote for a self-proclaimed socialist
There’s no denying that socialism is having a moment in the United States right now. It’s shocking to both Republicans and Democrats alike. With that said, there are some prominent Democrats such as senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez that are trying to bring their party closer to the once taboo-ish economic and social system. For example, as noted by Vox, Sanders “tweeted a video endorsement from Bhaskar Sunkara, the editor of the Marxist magazine Jacobin. In it, Sunkara casts the Sanders campaign as not just about 2020 but a broader campaign to remake America along socialistic lines.” Moreover, the Democratic Socialists of America went from having 8,500 members in fall 2016 to more than 50,000 members in fall 2018. With that said, when it comes time to vote, how many people would actually put a socialist in office and how does that compare to other types of candidates?
According to Gallup, less than half of Americans (47%) say they would vote for a qualified presidential candidate who is a socialist. Despite the stats mentioned above that seem to point to an increase in popularity, this figure is actually unchanged from 2015. When broken down by party, however, the results do show that the Democratic party is more open to electing a candidate that espouses socialist ideas. In fact, roughly three in four Democrats (74%) say they would support a self-identified socialist, up from 59% in 2015. Gallup points to Sanders’ 2016 campaign where he touted socialist ideas and performed well in the primaries. On the other side of the aisle, socialist candidates remain unpopular with the Republican party. Just 19% would vote for a socialist for president, down from 26% in 2015. As for independents, only 49% would vote for a socialist. This could be a potential problem for the Democrats if they nominate a left-leaning candidate who supports socialist-style programs.
What’s interesting is comparing the popularity of socialists against other types of candidates. For example, the Eurasia Group, a political risk consultancy, noted that “Americans would sooner elect a woman, a Muslim, or a gay candidate as president than put a self-described socialist in the White House.” Gallup confirms that statement noting that, “among religious identities, more than nine in 10 Americans say they are willing to vote for a qualified Catholic or Jewish candidate, while smaller majorities say they are willing to vote for an evangelical Christian (80%), a Muslim (66%) or an atheist (60%). As Barack Obama proved, “Americans are nearly universally willing to vote for a black (96%) or Hispanic (95%) candidate — and the same is true for their willingness to vote for a woman (92%). More than three in four say they would vote for a gay or lesbian candidate.” The bottom line is that while there is an increased tolerance for the idea of a socialist President, candidates who call themselves socialists may struggle to grain traction in the presidential race.