Economic Justice: Reacting to ‘capitalism’ or ‘socialism’

Before you read more, please answer two questions:
1. Do you have a positive or negative reaction to the word “capitalism”?
2. Do you have a positive or negative reaction to the word “socialism”?

When Republicans criticize President Obama, “socialism” is a word they often use to describe his economic policies and political philosophy.
They mean it as a dirty word. a century, the term “socialism” has been used as a scare tactic in the West. This infamous poster comes from Britain in 1909 from conservative political forces wanting to blunt a rising interest in socialism. Image in public domain from Wikimedia Commons.But, how do most Americans react to the term? About six of ten Americans (59%) do have a negative reaction to “socialism.” But three of ten (29%) have a positive reaction, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center.
“Capitalism” elicits more positive reactions than “socialism,” but it doesn’t come out a clear winner in the war of words. Just half (52%) of Americans have a positive reaction to “capitalism.”
More than a third (37%) of Americans have a negative reaction.

Political affiliations are key to reactions:
Republicans in particular bristle at the word “socialism”—over three-quarters (77%) have a negative reaction to it. Only 43% of Democrats have a negative reaction to “socialism.”

“Socialism” elicits more negative than positive reaction across almost all demographic, income, education and political lines. The two exceptions are African Americans and liberal Democrats.

“Capitalism” elicits many more positive than negative reactions among college graduates, those with family incomes of $75,000 or more, and Republicans.

Your reactions?

What does “capitalism” bring to mind?

What does “socialism” trigger?

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Originally published at, an online experiment in civil dialogue.

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