Yet millennials tend to reject the actual definition of socialism — government ownership of the means of production, or government running businesses. Only 32 percent of millennials favor “an economy managed by the government,” while, similar to older generations, 64 percent prefer a free‐market economy. And as millennials age and begin to earn more, their socialistic ideals seem to slip away.
So what does socialism actually mean to millennials? Scandinavia. Even though countries such as Denmark aren’t socialist states (as the Danish prime minster has taken great pains to emphasize) and Denmark itself outranks the United States on a number of economic freedom measures such as less business regulation and lower corporate tax rates, young people like that country’s expanded social welfare programs.
Coming of age during the Great Recession, millennials aren’t sure if free markets are sufficient to drive income mobility and thus many are comfortable with government helping to provide for people’s needs. Indeed, a Reason‐Rupe study found that 69 percent of millennials favor a government guarantee for health insurance and 54 percent support a guarantee for a college education. Perhaps most striking is that millennials favor a bigger government that provides more services — 52 percent of them do, compared with 38 percent of the nation overall.
So, will it last? Are millennials ushering in a sea change of public opinion? Do they signal the transformation of the United States into a Scandinavian social democracy?
It depends. There is some evidence that this generation’s views on activist government will stick. However, there is more reason to expect that support for their Scandinavian version of socialism may wither as they age, make more money and pay more in taxes.
The expanded social welfare state Sanders thinks the United States should adopt requires everyday people to pay considerably more in taxes. Yet millennials become averse to social welfare spending if they foot the bill. As they reach the threshold of earning $40,000 to $60,000 a year, the majority of millennials come to oppose income redistribution, including raising taxes to increase financial assistance to the poor.