Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sanders Gaining in Iowa: Is America Finally Ready for Socialism?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Sanders Gaining in Iowa: Is America Finally Ready for Socialism?

Article excerpt

As Bernie Sanders edges closer to Hillary Clinton in the Iowa polls, one thing is becoming clear: Instead of being a liability, his socialist platform may be his strongest asset.

In fact, it seems that socialism in general is embraced currently, despite its historical stigma in the United States. The new Selzer & Co. Iowa poll found that 43 percent of likely voters in the Feb. 1 Democratic Iowa caucuses would use the word "socialist" to describe themselves.

The poll offered an array of political or ideological adjectives, such as "politically correct" and "gun enthusiast," and asked voters to answer "yes" or "no" to as to whether the words can be used to describe themselves. The answers are predictably split down partisan lines. For instance, for "gun enthusiasts," 53 percent of Republicans said "yes," compared with only 16 percent of Democrats.

Interestingly enough, "capitalist" also proved to be a partisan label. While a considerable portion of Democratic Iowa caucus-goers were eager to label themselves socialists, fewer would described themselves as capitalist - only 38 percent.

But it isn't just in Iowa that socialism is being seen as an emerging Democratic brand. The Selzer & Co. poll found that tepid but substantial support for socialism reflects a national acceptance. According to a June 2015 Gallup poll, 47 percent of surveyed voters around the country say they would vote for a socialist. Among Democrats, that figure grows to 59 percent.

In The New York Times/CBS News poll conducted November, 56 percent of Democratic primary voters nationally said they felt positive about socialism as a governing philosophy, versus 29 percent who took a negative view.

While not every socialist voter supports Mr. Sanders - about a third are more likely to vote for Hillary Clinton - the majority do so. For some political experts, the mass appeal of socialism remains a mystery. …

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