A new poll reveals the shocking extent of young Americans’ support for communism. However, it also reveals the reasons behind the popularity of collectivism and the seeds of its destruction.
The number of young Americans who have a favorable view of Marxism has increased five-fold in just one year. According to the new survey, nearly one-third of the members of Gen Z – Americans between the ages of 16 and 23 – say “Marxism” deserves our support. The term’s favorability has skyrocketed to 30 percent of Gen Z respondents, up from 6 percent in 2019.
Gen Z’s approval of socialism also creeped up nine points since last year (49 percent favorable in 2020, compared to 40 percent in 2019).
The results come from the newest edition of the “Report on U.S. Attitudes Toward Socialism, Communism, and Collectivism” – which is commissioned annually by the Victims of Communism Memorial (VOC) and conducted by YouGov.
But the latest VOC poll, which was released Wednesday, contains an internal contradiction:
Americans increasingly distrust the government to take care of their interests, with 87% saying they trust themselves over the government and their community (a 7% increase from 2019). This is especially the case in younger generations, with only 6% of Gen Z and 5% of Millennials trusting the government to take care of their interests, down 8% and 11% from 2019, respectively.
How can young Americans distrust the government to take care of their interests and endorse socialism, which entrusts the government with the power to redistribute wealth, direct all economic activity, and control their access to such necessities as healthcare?
The poll’s results highlight two simple answers: ignorance of socialism and a jaundiced view of the United States induced by critical theory.
Americans suffer a two-pronged ignorance of socialism: what it is and what is has done. As Simon van Zuylen-Wood explained in New York magazine last March, “the word [socialism] had lost its meaning by the time it got hot again.” Thus, 31 percent of VOC respondents say they believe that socialism “[m]eans a free market economy with private property” where “the government provides ample social welfare benefits, as in many Scandinavian and Western European countries.” In reality, Scandinavian countries have tried for years to inform Americans in general (and Bernie Sanders in particular) that they are not socialist, and that democratic socialists like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez fundamentally misunderstand the Scandinavian model. They jettisoned policies like the ones AOC proposes after the economic crashes of the 1980s.
Researchers have found public confusion over the socialist economic system grew in tandem with its popularity. Only 20 percent of registered voters in the U.S. associated socialism with government ownership of some (13 percent) or all (7 percent) of the economy in a Hill-HarrisX survey taken last May. One in three said socialism meant the government would “end poverty and provide basic things.” The same is true for Americans as a whole. A Gallup poll from October 2018 found that less than one in five U.S. citizens said socialism means abolishing private property, while 23 percent said socialism stands for “equality – equal standing for everybody, all equal in rights, equal in distribution.”
Americans also have no grasp of Marxism’s bloody past – and present. The VOC finds that 32 percent of Americans “think that Donald Trump is responsible for the deaths of more people” than North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. Twice as many Americans (64 percent) “say they are unaware that the Chinese Communist Party is responsible for more deaths than Nazi Germany.”
However, young Americans are aware of one nation’s failings: their own. Gen Z is almost twice as likely to believe “America is a racist nation with a long history of discrimination” (51 percent) as to say that “America is a leading defender of freedom around the world” (27 percent). “Only 44% of Gen Z thinks that the American flag most accurately represents freedom,” the poll finds. Hence, Americans are more likely to advocate toppling statues depicting Robert E. Lee (30 percent) or Christopher Columbus (26 percent) than Marxist mass murderer Che Guevara (24 percent). Gen Z even believes U.S. President Trump did more to spread COVID-19 than China’s Xi Jinping.
“It shocks the conscience” that “four-in-ten Americans believe that their country is a ‘racist’ nation,” says VOC Executive Director Marion Smith.
Smith attributes these views to “a total failure of our education system,” as well as the “basic dishonesty in our media and popular culture.”
“When one-in-four Americans want to eliminate capitalism and embrace socialism, we know that we have failed to educate about the historical and moral failings of these ideologies,” Smith says.
Or perhaps the educational establishment has indoctrinated American students too well. Before the Pulitzer-Prize-winning 1619 Project backtracked on its central claim that the introduction of slavery represented America’s “true founding,” public schools had already taught its curriculum to “tens of thousands of students in all 50 states” … at your expense. Academia has long inculcated the neo-Marxist view of America as a patchwork of competing victim groups (racial, sexual, and gender minorities) and oppressors (straight, white, cisgender males). Discrediting the U.S. Constitution, with its checks on mob rule and embrace of a free-market economic system, as “systemically racist” represents the high-water mark of Italian Communist Antonio Gramsci’s long march through history – an effort to form a Marxist consciousness in society.
Identity politics succeeded where Das Kapital fell flat. Americans who see themselves as members of impermeable and warring tribes require the government step in to mediate their differences – and to assure that resources are evenly distributed between groups, according to a viral speech from Claremont Institute President Thomas Klingenstein. But “achieving this proportional representation requires a never-ending redistribution of wealth and power” by the federal government. “Such a massive redistribution can only be achieved by a tyrannical government” where “dissenters are silenced.” Such a government could traditionally be labeled socialist or Marxist.
To succeed, socialists “must get us to believe we are bad.” In reality, “America has brought more freedom and more prosperity to more people than any country in the history of mankind.” To further that understanding, he has unveiled a petition to declare every election day – when Americans celebrate their right of self-determination – as “America is Good Day.” The petition has been signed by such notable figures as former Secretary of Education William J. Bennett, former Sen. Jim DeMint, and Hillsdale College President Larry Arnn.
In the Cold War, the struggle against Marxism was geostrategic. Today, it takes place within societies and hearts. Halting socialism’s ascent in the United States demands that we educate young people on socialism’s history of poverty and oppression – and replace the masochism masquerading as history with an appreciation of Western civilization.
This article has been republished with permission from the Acton Institute.
Rev. Ben Johnson is senior editor at the Acton Institute, where he edits Religion & Liberty Transatlantic. In addition to being an experienced journalist, editor, and radio commentator, he is also an Eastern Orthodox priest.