Students love socialism!…whatever that is… Ask most college students, and they'll tell you that socialism is a wonderful thing. Just don't ask them to define it, because you'll get the same answer. Last year, a poll was released showing 53 percent of Americans under age 35 are dissatisfied with our nation’s current economic system and think socialism would be good for the country. The same poll found that 45 percent of young Americans would be willing to support an openly socialist Presidential candidate. The findings of this poll coincide with the rise of Senator Bernie Sanders, an avowed “Democratic Socialist” from Vermont who received millions of votes in the 2016 Democratic Primary, many of them from millennials.
While it’s clear that young people increasingly view socialism in a positive light, it’s also clear that many of them are uneducated about what it entails, or the impact it’s had throughout history. The same poll found many millennials are unfamiliar with historical figures often associated with socialism, such as Che Guevara, Joseph Stalin, and Karl Marx. Wanting to see what millennials in D.C. thought of socialism, Campus Reform headed to Washington, D.C. to ask students two simple questions: “Do you like socialism?” and “What is socialism?” It quickly became clear that while most of the people we spoke with held an idyllic view of socialism, most had little idea of what it actually is. One student said of socialism, “I think people throw that word around to try and scare you, but if helping people is socialism, than I’m for it.”
When asked how she would define socialism, her answer was simple: “I mean honestly I’m not not exactly sure.” -- “I guess just, you know, getting rid of that wealth gap in the United States?” ventured another. One student supported it passionately, saying “It’s more of an open form of government and it feels a lot more accessible to a lot more people,” but when asked to explain what socialism actually entails, could only repeat now-common refrain: “To be quite honest I don’t know.”