WASHINGTON, D.C. — Americans today are more closely divided than they were earlier in the last century when asked whether some form of socialism would be a good or bad thing for the country. While 51% of U.S. adults say socialism would be a bad thing for the country, 43% believe it would be a good thing. Those results contrast with a 1942 Roper/Fortune survey that found 40% describing socialism as a bad thing, 25% a good thing and 34% not having an opinion.

The Roper/Fortune survey is one of the oldest trend questions measuring attitudes on socialism in the U.S. Gallup’s update of the question in an April 17-30 survey finds Americans more likely to have an opinion on the matter now, as well as a smaller gap in the percentage calling socialism a bad thing vs. a good thing.

Previous Gallup research shows that Americans’ definition of socialism has changed over the years, with nearly one in four now associating the concept with social equality and 17% associating it with the more classical definition of having some degree of government control over the means of production. A majority of Democrats have said they view socialism positively in Gallup polling since 2010, including 57% in the most recent measure in 2018.

Outlook on Socialism Around the World

The April 17-30 survey also updates another historical question on socialism. Gallup first asked Americans in 1949 about their outlook on the spread of democracy over the next 50 years. At that time, seven in 10 Americans (72%) predicted that most countries in the world would have a democratic government. It’s important to note that in much of the political rhetoric of the time, the terms democracy and capitalism were more intimately intertwined than they are today, perhaps synonymous to many.

The current update on this question finds a marked increase in the percentage saying that most countries during the next 50 years will have a socialist government (29%). It is unclear whether this is due to the flourishing of democracies — particularly in Europe and Latin America — led by what are often described as social democrats, or whether a fundamental shift is taking place among some Americans in their views of socialism.

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