And the Survey Says …

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The results are in for Cato’s 2019 Welfare, Work, and Wealth National Survey, a project undertaken by Emily Ekins, the institutes director of polling. In this survey, conducted in partnership with pollster YouGov, 1,700 American adults were asked for their perspectives on a range of economic and public policy issues.

One notable result is the accelerated split between Democrats and Republicans on attitudes toward socialism. In 2016, Democrats were about as favorable toward capitalism (58 percent) as socialism (56 percent). But after President Trump took office, Democrats became more favorable toward socialism. Today, 64 percent of Democrats have favorable opinions of socialism and 45 percent are favorable to capitalism. Republicans continue to have overwhelmingly favorable views of capitalism (77 percent), while only 13 percent have favorable views of socialism. Overall, clear majorities of Americans have a favorable view of capitalism (59 percent) as well as an unfavorable view of socialism (also 59 percent).

Attitudes toward wealth redistribution also break down along partisan lines, with Democrats in favor (58 percent), support among independents at 36 percent, and support among Republications at 15 percent.

However, when put as a narrower and more concrete policy proposal, a majority of Americans (61 percent) favor raising tax rates for families making more than $200,000 per year. And despite opposition to wealth redistribution in the abstract, a majority of Americans (55 percent) describe the current distribution of wealth as "unjust." Among age cohorts, those age 65 and older were the only group with a majority in favor of the current distribution of wealth.

Cato's public opinion research provides a crucial and revealing guide to the nuances of public opinion, informing the institutes scholars and others about the state of public opinion. Cato's polls often reveal how the phrasing of questions can elicit different answers. Often, for instance, Cato surveys reveal that proposed government programs are much more popular if respondents are not told about costs.