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US Communism Survey

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The Victims of Communism memorial foundations started doing an annual survey on American's attitudes to Socialism in 2016. As its not a subject that gets much coverage, information on public attitudes is pretty sparse so I thought it would be worth sharing.

here is the report: http://victimsofcommunism.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/VOC-Report-101316.pdf

The raw data from YouGov is here: http://victimsofcommunism.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/VOC-Attitudes-toward-Socialism-Topline-Data.pdf

As a summary here are some details of the reports findings (listed below) from the link here: http://victimsofcommunism.org/new-report-reveals-u-s-attitudes-on-socialism-communism-on-eve-of-2016-election/

Basic Knowledge of Communism is Lacking:

·      Approximately one in four Americans (26%) and one-third of millennials (32%) believe more people were killed under George W. Bush than Joseph Stalin;

·      Nearly 7 in 10 (68%) of all Americans and nearly 6 in 10 (59%) of Generation Z (ages 16-20) falsely believe that more people were killed under Hitler than Stalin;

·      A vast majority (75%) underestimate the number of people killed by Communist regimes (more than 100 million);

·      Many millennials are unfamiliar with communist leaders – Mao: 42%; Guevara: 40%; Stalin: 18%; Lenin: 33%; Putin 18%

·      Of those millennials familiar with Vladimir Lenin, 25% have a favorable view of him

Younger Americans Have Sharply Different Views of Communism and Socialism than Older Americans:

·      Roughly half of millennials (55%) believe Communism was and still is a problem – compared with 80% of Baby Boomers and 91% of elderly Americans;

·      While 57% of all Americans have a “very unfavorable” view of communism, that view is shared by just 37% of millennials and 38% of Generation Z;

·      64% of Americans agreed with the classic Karl Marx statement that underpins Marxist philosophy: “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs”;

·      Nearly half of Generation Z (45%) say they would vote for a socialist; 1 in 5 (21%) say they would vote for a communist; 

Turning Against Capitalism – the “Bernie Sanders Bounce”:

·      A majority of millennials (53%) believe America’s economic system works against them;

·      4 in 10 Americans call for a “complete change” of America’s economic system to ensure highest earners pay their fair share;

·      64% of elderly Americans (age 65+) held a favorable view of capitalism, versus 42% of millennials;

·      Younger Americans were far less likely to agree with ideas of capitalist Milton Friedman (Gen Z: 55%; millennials: 58%) than they were Bernie Sanders (Gen Z: 71%; millennials: 71%). 

Any Thoughts?

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This information, for all of its grim implications, has a bright side: On an average, Americas are averse to any serious study of history or philosophy, as the surveys suggest. This puts us at risk of failing to recognize dangerous policies and ideologies. The focus of most Americans is looking forward, that is, they are interested in the applications of new technologies, and learning how new technologies might improve their lives. I'm not so alarmed by the fact that so many people choose to ignore the lessons of history, not so much as I used to be. I am somewhat concerned about the rise of the Religious-Right and the trend toward tribalism in American politics. What alarms me is the increased interest of young people inspired by current political celebrities, (presidents) and seek to "save the world" through their altruistic efforts. As ill-equipped as they may be for the task, it would require only a small number of pro-capitalist, libertarian, or, hopefully, Objectivist advocates to challenge the Alt-Right and "Bernie Sanders Bouncers." Of course, it would help immensely for this small number of rebels to be members of the same youthful demographic category. In her book, For the New Intellectual, Ayn Rand professed the need for the philosophical businessmen. Such a heroic celebrity could change the popular perception of capitalism. The logic of economic liberty and private ownership are not all that difficult to appreciate. However, it always sounds better to promise "free-lunch." I hope the present-day display of naivete toward absurd ideas (and absurd presidential candidates) is not permanent. And mostly, I hope more young people crack open a history book an their Kindle devises.

Edited by Repairman
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55 minutes ago, Nicky said:


Sounds like a poorly conducted survey to me. Why would any American think that Putin is a communist leader? He's not.

Whoever made the report misrepresented the data for sure.

But the survey question itself seems fine. The survey question was if familiar a particular person. Some were Communists, some weren't.

Actually, looking through it, the whole thing was rather poorly done.

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2 hours ago, Eiuol said:

Whoever made the report misrepresented the data for sure.

But the survey question itself seems fine. The survey question was if familiar a particular person. Some were Communists, some weren't.

Actually, looking through it, the whole thing was rather poorly done.

What would you have done differently to make the survey better? Do you have a set of questions in mind?

The level of information about American Attitudes to Communism is very small, so I think the survey is perhaps better than nothing (though it is quite distorted and limited). Interestingly, there has been a spike in membership growth for the Democratic Socialists of American (from 6,000 to 21,000) and the Communist Party USA (up 600 members in the last two months of 2016) as a result of Trumps election. Overall, this is a very slight change and can't really be said to be a trend in the US overall because the socialist/communist left is so small, but that correspond with the shift in attitudes the survey indicates. 

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16 hours ago, Laika said:

The level of information about American Attitudes to Communism is very small, so I think the survey is perhaps better than nothing (though it is quite distorted and limited).

Agreed, it is at least some information. As you were asking, here is what I'd alter:

Familiarity with past leaders needs to have people of similar historical stature, and time period. How does Mao compare to Nixon? To Khrushev? To Jimmy Stewart, to have non-political examples of the 60s? It's a survey, so sticking to leaders between 1940 and 1990 is probably best. Some big names.

The questions about Stalin causing death is hard to measure. Do we mean people he sent to the gulag and executed? Do some people count soldiers being sent to war as a death -caused- by a leader? Millions of people died from starvation and other issues during Stalin's regime, but it's not the same as Stalin killing them or the regime killing them indirectly at best. So the survey results about which regime killed the most is not so helpful. It is better to phrase it like "Do you think Communism led to most of the deaths in the USSR during Stalin's leadership?" This captures more about how people -attribute- the deaths, not just "how many died".  

The questions on how the American economic system is too mixed to be useful. As far as economics, I'd say the system works against me on average. The survey takes this as vaguely anti-capitalist. A better question would be if a person thinks Communism would be superior.

And is Communism a problem? I find it low on my list of political problems. That question is not helpful. Problem compared to what? It's not really a pressing issue. White nationalism is the problem that I see. Rather, I'd ask some question about the future of Communism. Do people see it as dying out? Or do respondents mean to say Communism is not a problem because it's good?

Anecdotally, there is an uptick in Communism as far as I've seen, but this survey only seems to confirm an uptick vaguely speaking.

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It isn't that surprising to me that Americans don't know that much about Communism. There have been a lot of surveys in the past that concluded that the overall level of political knowledge in the United States is low - that's pretty much taken for granted in political science at this point.

I think some of the ignorance we see in this survey might be concentrated "at the bottom," so to speak. For example, maybe the quarter of Americans who don't know that Stalin killed more people than George Bush are mostly the same people as the 18% of respondents who said they weren't familiar with Stalin and Putin, respectively. So, maybe one problem we're seeing here is that a specific subset of the people polled just aren't interested in politics or history at all (and probably don't vote).

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