IEA - New polling shows ongoing support for socialism among young Britons

From: Think Tanks
Published: Fri Mar 10 2023

New polling by the Fraser Institute for the Realities of Socialism project shows that a majority of Britons under 35 prefer socialism as the ideal economic system.

  • Across the entire British population, capitalism remains the preferred economic system;
  • Support for socialism was strongest among 25-34 year olds (53 per cent), with strong support for socialist policies such as a guaranteed minimum income, wealth taxes and higher taxes on the top 10 per cent;
  • However, the Zoomer' demographic (18-24 year olds) were, according to polling, the strongest supporters of capitalism and least supportive of some socialist policies such as wealth taxes of any of the demographic groups;
  • Among the four countries polled in this study (Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the UK was the least supportive of capitalism and most supportive of socialism.

Using new polling data from Leger, commissioned for the Fraser Institute, the study finds that 43 per cent of all Britons support socialism as their preferred economic system. The number rises to 53 per cent among Britons aged 18-34. An even greater number of Britons under 35 (56 per cent) agreed that socialism would improve Britain's economy and well-being.

However, many of those who opposed socialism as an economic model were supportive of policies such as higher taxes and increased government intervention in the economy that are often associated with socialism. When asked how the government should finance the increased government spending on programs and/or providing a guaranteed minimum income, more than half supported higher taxes on the top 10 per cent and more than two-thirds backed a wealth tax on the top 1 per cent.

This comes despite the number of OECD countries implementing wealth taxes declined from 12 in 1990 to four in 2017. Support for increasing personal income taxes on the top 10 per cent of income earners to finance socialism was just over half among all age groups in the UK, despite the already significant shift of the tax burden onto higher earners since 2010.

However, in perhaps a sign that Zoomers are starting to realise that the burden of a high tax society cannot be shouldered completely by the wealthy, the lowest support for taxes targeting the rich and highest support for increased taxes for all was the 18-24 bracket.

IEA Head of Political Economy Dr. Kristian Niemietz said:

These results show that the Corbyn years were not some freak event, or a one-off aberration. They were just the beginning. Socialism is part of the new normal in 2020s Britain.

Large numbers of younger people have turned their backs on capitalism, and unlike previous generations, they show no signs of growing out of those beliefs as they reach middle age. This should be a wake-up call for those of us who still believe in the market economy.

IEA Senior Advisor to the Director General Sam Collins said:

While these results show that many young people still consider capitalism a dirty word, there is evidence that amongst the youngest demographic there is a growing appreciation that socialist policies, such as, wealth taxes, greater state involvement in the economy and moving towards a guaranteed minimum income are just not tenable.

We should feel no surprise that a generation locked out of the housing market by NIMBYs and forced to rack up high student debts thanks to occupational licensing isn't enamoured with capitalism. Any government wishing to change this mindset needs to introduce the free market reforms that give young people more opportunities to work, buy a house and improve their own lives.

IEA spokespeople are available for live and pre-recorded broadcast.

Notes to Editors

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  • This study is part of a new multimedia project, The Realities of Socialism, by the Fraser Institute, the Institute of Economic Affairs in the UK, the Institute of Public Affairs in Australia and the Fund for American Studies in the U.S.
  • A copy of the Fraser Institute's new polling on perceptions of socialism can be read here:
  • This polling backs up the findings of Left Turn Ahead, research by IEA Head of Political Economy Dr. Kristian Niemietz in 2021 which showed an overwhelmingly favourable view of socialism among young Britons
  • The poll also explored how respondents defined socialism: 39 per cent of Britons polled defined socialism in the traditional sense-government owning and controlling businesses and industries. While this may seem low, there are more respondents who agree that this is the correct definition than respondents who disagree - especially among respondents under the age of 55.
  • Crucially, those who support socialism are the ones who are most likely to define it in its purest, traditional sense.
  • A majority of Britons (55 per cent) define socialism as government providing more services or as the government providing a guaranteed minimum income (57 per cent).
  • When the more unambiguous term communism is substituted for socialism, support drops, but remains high among younger respondents. Nearly one in three UK Millennials believe that communism is the ideal economic system.
  • In 2019, the IEA published Socialism: The failed idea that never dies, by Kristian Niemietz, which outlines how socialism is able to distance itself from the ideas and reputations of brutal dictators like Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and Pol Pot.

The mission of the Institute of Economic Affairs is to improve understanding of the fundamental institutions of a free society by analysing and expounding the role of markets in solving economic and social problems. The IEA is a registered educational charity and independent of all political parties.

Company: Think Tanks

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