by Peter Dreier
Despite over a century of anti-socialist propaganda, it is remarkable that 38% of all Americans over 18 have a positive view of socialism, according to a Gallup Poll survey conducted in October 2021.
• There are 258 million Americans over 18, according to the 2020 Census. That means that 98 million Americans have a positive view of socialism. (That's different, of course, from calling yourself a socialist).
• The same poll found that 47% of Americans between 18 and 34 have a positive view of socialism.
• There are 76 million Americans between 18 and 34. That means that 36 million Americans between 18 and 34 have a positive view of socialism.
• The same poll found that 65% of Democrats (compared with 40% of independents and 10% of Republicans have a positive view of socialism. (Who are those 10% of Republicans, by the way?)
• The same poll found that 43% of women and 34% of men (over 18) have a positive view of socialism.
• In addition, 54% of non-white Americans over 18 (that's how the Gallup Poll categorized them), compared with 31% of white Americans over 18 have a positive view of socialism.
• Finally, 44% of Americans who are high school grads or less, 30% of Americans who have some college education, and 40% of college graduates have a positive view of socialism.
Any way you look at it, this is a huge number of people who have a positive view of socialism. Even if many or most of them can't specifically define what they mean by socialism, they are open to the idea.
The nation's largest socialist organization, the Democratic Socialists of America, has grown from about 6,000 members in 2015 to about 100,000 members today. That is larger than any socialist organization in the US since the 1920s, but it is still a tiny proportion of the people who told the Gallup Poll that they have a positive view of socialism.
Plus, as we've seen in the past six years - since Bernie Sanders ran for president the first time -- a significant number of Americans are willing to vote for candidates who call themselves "socialists" or "democratic socialists."
Another Gallup Poll, conducted in January 2020, found that 45% of Americans said they would be willing to vote for a socialist for president. More specifically, 76% of Democrats, 45% of Independents, and 17% of Republicans said they would be willing to do so.
Currently there are more than 100 members of DSA who have been elected to municipal, county, state or national (House and Senate) offices, and many more who were endorsed by DSA. There are other candidates, like Sanders and Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant, who identify themselves a socialists but who are not DSA members.
These poll results (which have been pretty consistent for almost a decade), and these election results, don't guarantee anything, but they do suggest that DSA has the potential to grow significantly if it had the resources to reach more people, That requires, however, that:
(1) DSA find ways to talk about democratic socialism in ways that do not alienate people,
(2) DSA's existing 100,000 members participate in – and where possible help lead - the many mass movements around the environment, labor, immigrant rights, women's and LGBTQ equality, civil rights, and other causes,
(3) DSA expand its efforts to encourage members to participate in the Democratic Party (since 65% of identified Democrats say they have a positive view of socialism), which involves get involved in the party machinery and supporting progressive candidates in Democratic primaries (including candidates who are not socialists or DSA members), and
(4) DSA end its self-defeating internal battles over ideological purity that undermines its ability to be more effective and reach more people.
Peter Dreier was on DSA’s founding national executive committee in the 1980s. He is Professor of Politics at Occidental College.
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antiracismdsa (blog of Duane Campbell)
Hatuey's Ashes (blog of José G. Pérez)
Authory and Substack of Max Sawicky
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In These Times
The American Prospect
Black Agenda Report
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Working Families Party
Poor People's Campaign
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
Progressive Democrats of America
Democracy for America
Black Lives Matter
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The Women's March
Jewish Voice for Peace
National Abortion Rights Action League
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National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights