67 per cent of young Brits want a socialist economic system, finds new poll

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Read Time: 2 minutes
  • Research from the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) confirms younger people are hostile to capitalism and hold positive views of socialist alternatives.
  • The new paper should act as a “wake up call” to supporters of the market economy. The rejection of capitalism may be an abstract aspiration – but so too was Brexit.
  • A Forefront Market Research poll commissioned by the IEA of just under 2,000 people aged between 16 and 34 in the UK, carried out between February and March 2021, found that:
  • 67 per cent say they would like to live in a socialist economic system.
  • 75 per cent agree with the assertion that climate change is a specifically capitalist problem.
  • 78 per cent blame capitalism for Britain’s housing crisis.
  • 72 per cent support the (re-)nationalisation of various industries such as energy, water and the railways.
  • 72 per cent believe that private sector involvement would put the NHS at risk.
  • 75 per cent agree with the statement that ‘socialism is a good idea, but it has failed in the past because it has been badly done’.

New IEA research, titled ‘Left Turn Ahead?’ and authored by Head of Political Economy Dr Kristian Niemietz,analyses the economic attitudes of Millennials and Generation Z towards socialism and capitalism.

Young people associate ‘socialism’ predominantly with positive terms, such as ‘workers’, ‘public’, ‘equal’ and ‘fair’. Very few associate it with ‘failure’ and virtually nobody associates it with Venezuela, the erstwhile showcase of ‘21st Century Socialism’. Capitalism, meanwhile, is predominantly associated with terms such as ‘exploitative’, ‘unfair’, ‘the rich’ and ‘corporations’.

Supporters of the market economy often dismiss support for left-wing ideas as a phase young people have always gone through. But capitalists can no longer reassure themselves that the young will “grow out of it”. This polling finds little difference in attitudes between Millennial and Gen Z: where it does exist, it indicates Zoomers will “grow into it” rather than Millennials “out”.

As Niemietz argues, none of the survey results mean that supporters of capitalism should throw in the towel, concede defeat in the battle of ideas and just accept that the future belongs to socialism.

Instead, they should take ‘Millennial Socialism’ far more seriously than they currently do. They should treat it as a challenge and engage with it, rather than dismiss it or deny it exists.

Dr Kristian Niemietz, Head of Political Economy at the Institute of Economic Affairs and author of Left Turn Ahead? said:

“These results show that “Millennial Socialism” is not just a social media hype, and it was not just a passing fad which ended with Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation. Nor is it simply a replay of the student radicalism of the 1960s. This is a long-term shift in attitudes, which is not going to go away on its own.

“Supporters of the market economy need to accept that challenge, and rise to it, rather than dismiss it, or pretend it is not happening. We need to get better at making the positive case for capitalism, developing market-based policy solutions to the problems young people are facing, as well as explaining why socialism, seductive though it may be, is always and everywhere a dead end.”


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