A survey by Young America’s Foundation and Echelon Insights asked American teenagers and young adults between the ages of 13-22 the open-ended question, “How would you best describe the meaning of the term ‘socialism’?” Their responses were “coded into categories” with 27 percent of respondents falling into the “Don’t know/Unsure” category. Similarly, 30 percent landed in that same category when asked to define “free market.” Some of the other response categories demonstrate that there were actually even more respondents who did not understand the two terms.
Here are some of the definitions of socialism provided by the respondents. While some appear to grasp the concept and even offer pithy descriptions, others clearly lack understanding:
- “Everyone benefits, but especially the government” – 22 year old female
- “Diet Communism” – 19 year old male
- “It kinda confuses me but I think it’s when like stuff is more equal among people for free, like government programs and stuff” – 16 year old male
- “inclusive,care for all,equality for basic rights.needs” – 16 year old female
- “free everything” – 13 year old female
- “treating the people as cattle, giving them only what the government sees fit, failing government” – 20 year old male
- “Being able to socialize in the world” – 22 year old male
Here are some of the respondents’ definitions of a free market:
- “A market in which Joe down the street could participate and thrive, if he so wanted to.” – 19 year old male
- “A[n] atmosphere where a person succeeds or fails off their own merit and skill level” –20 year old male
- “Free for all. No rules. Money is the only thing that matters and companies can do whatever they like.” – 17 year old male
- “People work or go hungry” – 16 year old male
- “Possibly as in like the government giving people money to be able to substain” – 15 year old male
- “A market with free items” – 15 year old male
YAF reported that people’s opinions of socialism ticked down slightly after they perused material about the topic.
“Our poll asked respondents to evaluate the favorability of socialism before and after reading information about socialism,” YAF explains. “Prior to reading these statements, the mean average response was 4.15 our [sic] of 10.0, and following reading these statements, the mean average response was 3.84 out of 10.”
While a majority of the young people (59 percent) disapproved of President Trump, a significant proportion (33 percent) did approve of him. Over half (53 percent) indicated that the U.S. is on the “wrong track” while just under a quarter (24 percent) indicated it is going the “right direction.”
Slightly less than one quarter (23 percent) self-identified as progressive while a slightly higher proportion (26 percent) identified as conservative. An even larger percentage (36 percent) identified as moderate while 15 percent were unsure.