Millennials Are Increasingly Skeptical of Capitalism
A recent Harvard poll of young adults between 18 and 29 years old found that Millennials are increasingly skeptical of free-market capitalism. A whopping 51 percent of respondents said don’t support capitalism, compared to only 42 percent that say they do.
The results of Harvard’s survey are in-line with other research indicating there’s a profound shift in young people’s perception of the American economic system.
As the pollsters themselves note, however, the results are quite difficult to interpret. Capitalism means different things to different people, and doesn’t even have a widely agreed-upon academic definition. In addition, only 33 percent of respondents indicated a preference for an alternative system like socialism. It seems most young people prefer a healthy mix of economic ideologies, but are broadly unhappy with America’s current incarnation of capitalism.
The Cold War is fading from memory—American capitalism is no longer the sworn enemy of Soviet-era communism. This means people too young to remember the political tension between the two rival nations may be paying more attention to the pitfalls of the free market.
“The word ‘capitalism’ doesn’t mean what it used to,” said Zach Lustbader, a Harvard senior who helped conduct the survey.
“For those who grew up during the Cold War, capitalism meant freedom from the Soviet Union and other totalitarian regimes. For those who grew up more recently, capitalism has meant a financial crisis from which the global economy still hasn’t completely recovered.”
The same Harvard poll saw Social Democrat Bernie Sanders as the most popular presidential candidate among millennials. Polling director John Della Volpe said Sanders’ ideas are highly influential to the demographic, and may be changing the way future generations think about politics.
“He’s not moving a party to the left,” Della Volpe said. “He’s moving a generation to the left. Whether or not he’s winning or losing, it’s really that he’s impacting the way in which a generation — the largest generation in the history of America — thinks about politics.”
That doesn’t mean Millennials have completely disavowed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. In fact, an astounding 61 percent of them say they’d back the former Secretary of State over Donald Trump. Not that it’s a particularly tough choice.