October 1, 2019 9:00AM

Poll: The Democratic Coalition Is Divided Over Socialism, Attitudes Toward the Rich

With the democratic primaries underway, the multitude of Democratic candidates will likely highlight the fault lines that divide the Democratic Party. The recent Cato 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey found one such fault line dividing liberal and moderate Democrats: socialism and attitudes toward the rich.

Democratic party divided over socialism, feelings toward the rich

Liberal Democrats are about 10–25 points more likely than moderate Democrats to:

  • have favorable views of socialism (74% vs. 49%)
  • to strongly support raising top marginal tax rates to 70% (60% vs. 38%)
  • to strongly agree that people admire the rich too much (51% vs. 36%)
  • to strongly agree the U.S. wealth distribution is “unjust” (51% vs. 30%)
  • to believe that billionaires are a threat to democracy (58% vs. 49%)

Conversely, moderate Democrats like the rich more than liberal Democrats do. Moderate Democrats are about 10–20 points more likely than liberal Democrats to

  • feel more “admiration” than “resentment” toward the rich (65% vs. 48%)
  • believe the rich earned their wealth by creating value for society (64% vs. 48%)
  • agree “we are all better off when people get rich” because they invest in new businesses and technology (58% vs. 41%)
  • strongly agree there’s nothing wrong with making as much money as possible (50% vs. 38%)

Full survey results and report found here.


These divisions could have important implications as Democratic candidates seek to stand out and attract primary voters. In particular, as Democratic candidates have proposed new wealth taxes, “taxing the hell out of the wealthy,” or asserted that billionaires are the reason for people’s frustrations. These proposals and claims may be effective in garnering the support of the Democratic Party’s leftward flank, but may fail to capture the enthusiasm of more centrist voters.

Read more of the survey report here.

The Cato Institute 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth Survey was designed and conducted by the Cato Institute in collaboration with YouGov. YouGov collected responses online March 5 to 8, 2019 from a representative national sample of 1,700 Americans 18 years of age and older. The margin of error for the survey is +/- 2.2 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence.

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