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A majority of millennials now reject capitalism

A majority of millennials now reject capitalism thumbnail

In an apparent rejection of the basic principles of the U.S. economy, a new poll shows that most young people do not support capitalism.

The Harvard University survey, which polled young adults between ages 18 and 29, found that 51 percent of respondents do not support capitalism. Just 42 percent said they support it.

It isn’t clear that the young people in the poll would prefer some alternative system, though. Just 33 percent said they supported socialism. The survey had a margin of error of 2.4 percentage points.

The results of the survey are difficult to interpret, pollsters noted. Capitalism can mean different things to different people, and the newest generation of voters is frustrated with the status quo, broadly speaking.

All the same, that a majority of respondents in Harvard University’s survey of young adults said they do not support capitalism suggests that today’s youngest voters are more focused on the flaws of free markets.

“The word ‘capitalism’ doesn’t mean what it used to,” said Zach Lustbader, a senior at Harvard involved in conducting the poll, which was published Monday. For those who grew up during the Cold War, capitalism meant freedom from the Soviet Union and other totalitarian regimes. For those who grew up more recently, capitalism has meant a financial crisis from which the global economy still hasn’t completely recovered.

A subsequent survey that included people of all ages found that somewhat older Americans also are skeptical of capitalism. Only among respondents at least 50 years old was the majority in support of capitalism.

Although the results are startling, Harvard’s questions accord with other recent research on how Americans think about capitalism and socialism. In 2011, for example, the Pew Research Center found that people ages 18 to 29 were frustrated with the free-market system.

In that survey, 46 percent had positive views of capitalism, and 47 percent had negative views — a broader question than what Harvard’s pollsters asked, which was whether the respondent supported the system. With regard to socialism, by contrast, 49 percent of the young people in Pew’s poll had positive views, and just 43 percent had negative views.

Lustbader, 22, said the darkening mood on capitalism is evident in the way politicians talk about the economy. When Republicans — long the champions of free enterprise — use the word “capitalism” these days, it’s often to complain about “crony capitalism,” he said.

“You don’t hear people on the right defending their economic policies using that word anymore,” Lustbader added.

It is an open question whether young people’s attitudes on socialism and capitalism show that they are rejecting free markets as a matter of principle or whether those views are simply an expression of broader frustrations with an economy in which household incomes have been declining for 15 years.

On specific questions about how best to organize the economy, for example, young people’s views seem conflicted. Just 27 percent believe government should play a large role in regulating the economy, the Harvard poll found, and just 30 percent think the government should play a large role in reducing income inequality. Only 26 percent said government spending is an effective way to increase economic growth

Yet 48 percent agreed that “basic health insurance is a right for all people.” And 47 percent agreed with the statement that “Basic necessities, such as food and shelter, are a right that the government should provide to those unable to afford them.”

“Young people could be saying that there are problems with capitalism, contradictions,” Frank Newport, the editor in chief of Gallup, said when asked about the new data. “I certainly don’t know what’s going through their heads.”

John Della Volpe, the polling director at Harvard, went on to personally interview a small group of young people about their attitudes toward capitalism to try to learn more. They told him that capitalism was unfair and left people out despite their hard work.

“They’re not rejecting the concept,” Della Volpe said. “The way in which capitalism is practiced today, in the minds of young people — that’s what they’re rejecting.”


27 Comments on "A majority of millennials now reject capitalism"

  1. Davy on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 6:19 am 

    Sure those pesky millennials do because the pie is shrinking but unfortunately they have no alternative that will work. They are going to be the cannon fodder of collapse but they still believe they can reform and redo that something that cannot be reformed except by destruction. This destruction will be theirs.

  2. makati1 on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 7:30 am 

    The younger generation is breaking tradition. They see the Empire for what it is. And they may be the war protestors that keep America from being more stupid than it already is. We can only hope.

  3. Kenz300 on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 7:41 am 

    The top 1% want it all….. and the RepubliCON party will give it to them………..

    What do RepubliCONS believe…….. depends who is paying….. follow the money……. fossil fuels….. oil, coal natural gas…, nuclear, NRA………the top 1%

    Are RepubliCONS the real EVIL DOERS………..they want to end Social Security, Medicare and access to contraception…….

  4. Go Speed Racer on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 8:29 am 

    Just like the hippy’s in the 1960’s. They oppose capitalism, maybe live in a teepee in the woods, and dream of a socialist compound where everybody washes the dishes together. In the end, the 0.1% get richer and richer and richer. All the hippy’s get, is old.

    Not saying it’s right. I think the millenials are right. Just saying how it goes, same as last time. Right now 62 men get half of all assets in USA. Soon they will get it down to one guy has everything. Just like the society that built the pyramids.

  5. makati1 on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 8:41 am 

    Won’t last that long, Go.

  6. paulo1 on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 8:49 am 

    “Dad, can I borrow the car to go to the Bernie rally? Oh yeah, is the tank full”?

  7. GregT on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 10:01 am 

    It’s difficult to get people to support a system predicated on short term gain for long term pain, when the short term is rapidly coming to an end, and all that remains is the consequences.

  8. penury on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 10:36 am 

    The millenials have never lived under “capitalism”. Facism? possible, socialism? doubtful, theocracy? in some places, military control? could be. But the important part to the young is they (as a group) see no future which would follow the “american dream”. indebted, involved in continuous military actions, climate change, mass die offs of sea life, continuing radiation leaks, mass die off of the large species of animals not to mention the infra structure of the cities decaying, oh well its great to be young in America.

  9. PracticalMaina on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 11:07 am 

    Davy they do have an option. In the last 9 years the amount of farmers in my state has increased 40%. Many of whom are younger individuals. When the only option is to sell your soul for a shitty job, time to be self employed small farms get some tax protection and mean you don’t have to contribute as many tax dollars to the war and propaganda machine.
    I love when people talk shit about Bernie supporters, why just a couple weeks ago I was told my generation was the give me generation as I was digging a trench around a middle aged couples home to keep it from flooding this spring….for free, because I know them and they were in a tough spot. I tried to explain what a hypocrite he was, but some people just don’t get it. Or people talking about Bernie supporters not wanting to share, despite it being part of his message. How many cash donations from working class people are going to other candidate? specifically Hillary?
    Student debt and few prospects is all many people have. They were promised if they aspired to get educated they would be rewarded with opportunity. Look what happened to Occupy movements, wall street can exploit the labor and resources of the world, but if you camp out in downtown New York, get ready for some violence from the police.

  10. PracticalMaina on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 11:10 am 

    Davy, not a ton of options really, but people are working hard to find their niche. I can only speak from my personal life, but my 9-5 is only a means to an end to get as removed from the traditional economy asap.

  11. String900 on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 12:44 pm 

    $100,000+ For Profit College.
    Healthcare – One Illness and Bankruptcy.
    For Profit schools.
    For Profit Prisons – 400% more expensive.
    Verizon and Comcast – Yearly Price increases ( Monopoly Rent ) and NO Consumer Benefit, No Performance Increases.
    Wall Street FRAUD causing the Great Recession.
    No Middle Class wage increases for 30 years.
    35 years of FAILED Trickle Down Economcis.
    Exxon Funded Global Warming Denial for 30 years.

    Only an uneducated or Delusional Republican will think this is going to go away.

    If you think this isn’t serious, you’re the Fox-News-Watching-Idiot who is Totally Out of Touch with Reality.

  12. String900 on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 12:47 pm 

    Millennials haven’t lived under a FREE MARKET, we’ve seen nothing buy Capitalistic Corruption.

    We live under an Oligarchy of thieves.

  13. String900 on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 12:47 pm 

    Including the Roberts Supreme Court that backs up CORRUPT Republican Gerrymandering.

    The “Republican House” is Illegitimate.

  14. PracticalMaina on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 1:02 pm 

    String more proof of that here, 15 months for someone who abused children while a teacher. One of those highly moral religious types. The judge spent 30 minutes criticizing him and then only slaps him on the wrist.
    Someone should look into where he was getting all this hush money.

  15. HARM on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 1:04 pm 

    “…51 percent of respondents do not support capitalism. Just 42 percent said they support it.”

    Sounds encouraging until you read the next paragraph:

    “It isn’t clear that the young people in the poll would prefer some alternative system, though. Just 33 percent said they supported socialism.”

    If I were a plutocrat, I would take all this with a grain of salt and not get my privileged gold-plated knickers in a bunch just yet. The “kids” have finally woken up to the fact that *something* is rotten with the current arrangement. But they still haven’t quote put their finger on what “it” is just yet.

  16. PracticalMaina on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 1:11 pm 

    Aparently Dennis Hastert always voted for wage increases for his office. No wonder he got so many other law makers to write in in support of this pedophile.

  17. HARM on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 1:14 pm 

    I just love people who claim the current system ISN’T “real” capitalism. Despite the fact that 40+ years of rampant deregulation, shredding of the social safety net, and laissez-faire Chicago freshwater economics have utterly dominated political and public discourse.

    American capitalism is closer to “pure” capitalism than it has been in a hundred years, and yet that STILL isn’t Ayn Randian enough for many Americans.

    Here’s a clue: predatory capitalism, aka crony capitalism, aka social Darwinism, aka trickle-down economics *IS* “real” capitalism. Capitalism is about people with CAPITAL (read: inherited or married-into money) passively making even MORE money, while people who have to survive off actual labor and talent get the crumbs. That’s how capitalism works –it’s a feature, not a bug.

    If capitalism were actually meritocratic –i.e, actually rewarding broke people who relied on their labor and talent– they would call it “laborism”. But it doesn’t and they don’t.

  18. penury on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 5:22 pm 

    Harm, you might want to check your definition of Capitalismm

  19. HARM on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 5:55 pm 


    Yes I am well aware of the mainstream (propagandist) definition of “capitalism”, as most Americans understand it. I am also well aware that modern fairy stories about “free markets” and the “invisible hand” that supposedly guide it to wonderful outcomes for everyone has about the same basis in reality as winged unicorns.

    Are you yourself aware of critiques to capitalism, which (correctly) point out that unfettered capitalism invariably leads to a runaway concentration of wealth/capital into vanishingly few hands? There’s a reason they call it “capitalism” and not “laborism”, right? The end game for capitalism in its “purest” form is basically the same as the board game Monopoly –one guy ends up with all the money, all the real estate and all the cards.

  20. makati1 on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 7:16 pm 

    penury, HARM has his own definition. His mind is made up and will not be changed. I doubt he really knows what capitalism is supposed to be as it has never existed. Or not for long. Greed gets in the way of real capitalism. That is what is destroying us today. Greed in various degrees from psychotic, compulsory, financial greed at the top 0.0001% to the coveting of another kid’s bike at the bottom.

  21. HARM on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 7:26 pm 

    “Real Capitalism”. Is that something like “sustainable growth”, Mak? So I’ll know it when I see it?

  22. Anonymous on Wed, 27th Apr 2016 7:34 pm 

    What is wrong with HARM’s definition? Are some of you, who I thought knew better, still pining for some mythical form of pure, uncut, raw(americant) capitalism to come along and wipe away all the evil that military-corporate-capitalism has wrought?

    Hoping ‘real’ capitalism will vanquish ‘pseudo-capitalism?’. I get it, well fight fire with…, only hotter, cleaning burning, and less smoky fire. I guess. Okay, sure….

    Let me know when that project(if it ever), gets rolling. Ill take notes and do a before and after comparison. Be fun.

  23. makati1 on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 6:51 am 

    There is no more sustainable growth just capitalist leeches draining the last of the actual producers blood. The sooner it ends, the better for the world as a whole. Stock Market 90% drop would be fine with me.

  24. Kenz300 on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 7:17 am 

    The top 1% want it all….. and the RepubliCON party will give it to them………..

  25. JuanP on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 9:07 am 

    I reject capitalism, too. Capitalism is a seriously flawed economic system, just like all economic systems created in human history.

    Human beings are defective animals and almost everything we create is defective, too. Every once in a while someone somewhere gets something right by mistake, accident, or coincidence, but those are exceptions.

    Millenials grew up partially aware of the damage wrought by Capitalism on the world. They know this system has no future. The younger one is, the easier it is to see this. The children of today will have it even worse. Their adulthood will be a living nightmare. Bringing a child to this world today is a repulsive thing to do.

  26. GregT on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 10:46 am 

    Capitalism has nearly run it’s course, and when it is done, there will be nowhere to run, and nowhere to hide, from the consequences. The Earth was never ours to capitalize from to begin with.

  27. Dredd on Thu, 28th Apr 2016 4:02 pm 

    They are rejecting feudalism (American Feudalism, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11).

    The word “capitalism” describes a trance (Choose Your Trances Carefully, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6).

    A trance not unlike a “conduit” which is the pipe within which the resources of the 99% flow to the reservoirs of the 1%.

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