64 percent say Democratic Party supports socialism, says poll

Nearly two-thirds of registered voters in a Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey released exclusively to The Hill believe that the Democratic Party supports socialism.

Sixty-four percent of respondents said that they believe the Democratic Party backs such an economic system, while 36 percent believe the party is opposed to socialism, the poll found.

The finding comes amid an ongoing debate among Democrats over whether the party should throw its support behind sweeping policy proposals, like a single-payer health care system or raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans.

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate GOP budget ignores Trump, cuts defense Trump says he'll nominate Stephen Moore to Fed White House: ISIS territory in Syria has been 100 percent eliminated MORE in his State of the Union address earlier this month warned of a creeping socialism in the United States in what appeared to be a preview of an attack line he could use in his reelection campaign.

A growing number of progressives embrace democratic socialism as an ideological descriptor, including Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersDemocratic Socialists of America endorses Sanders for president Trump on 2020 Dems skipping AIPAC: 'I think they're anti-Jewish' The Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game MORE (I-Vt.), who announced a 2020 presidential run last week, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDemocratic Socialists of America endorses Sanders for president Ocasio-Cortez: Green New Deal 'narratives are manipulated' by critics Trump: Green New Deal 'the most preposterous thing' and 'easy to beat' MORE (D-N.Y.), who has taken Washington by storm.

There are different signs for Democrats when it comes to assessing whether some of the ideas linked to socialism will be popular with voters.

Most registered voters in the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey — 65 percent — said that they believe that the U.S. economy should be built around a “mostly capitalist” system, compared to 35 percent who want a “mostly socialist” system.

But the survey also revealed a wide generational gap in views on the U.S. economic system.

Fifty-six percent of registered voters polled who are between the ages of 18 and 24 favored a “mostly socialist” economic model; 48 percent of respondents between the ages of 25 and 34 said the same.

Among respondents between the ages of 55 and 64, only 27 percent said they prefer a “mostly socialist” system. Even fewer voters 65 and older — 22 percent — said the same, the poll found.

The youngest voters — those between the ages of 18 and 24 — were also the most likely to say that the Democratic Party backs socialism, at 71 percent, according to the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey. Conversely, 29 percent said they see the party as opposed to socialism.

Voters surveyed who fall in the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups were the least likely to say the party supports the economic philosophy, with 61 percent in each saying so. Thirty-nine percent said that the party opposes socialism.

As a whole, Democratic voters polled were largely split on the issue of capitalism and socialism. Fifty-one percent said they favor a “mostly capitalist” economy, while 49 percent said that the U.S. economy should be a “mostly socialist” one.

A number of high-profile Democrats have sought to distance themselves from the socialist moniker. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas), for example, declared earlier this month that he is a “capitalist” after being confronted with questions about democratic socialism in his party.

Likewise, Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenTrump on 2020 Dems skipping AIPAC: 'I think they're anti-Jewish' The Hill's Morning Report — Washington readies for Mueller end game 2020 Dems avoid this year's AIPAC conference MORE (D-Mass.), a progressive firebrand who’s running for the Democratic presidential nomination, has defended capitalism as an economic philosophy, while calling for new rules and regulations to level an uneven playing field.

Mark Penn, the co-director of the Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll, said the view that the Democratic Party backs socialism is a danger for the party.

“This could be the single most significant finding this cycle that the Democratic Party has let its image slide into being seen as a party supporting socialism by almost two-thirds of the voters,” Penn said. “This puts socialism on the ballot unless the Democratic Party moves back to the center and socialism is a losing proposition with the American electorate.”

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll online survey of 1,792 registered voters was conducted from Feb. 19-20. The partisan breakdown is 37 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican, 29 percent independent and 2 percent other.

The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll is a collaboration of the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University and The Harris Poll. The Hill will be working with Harvard/Harris Poll throughout 2019.

Full poll results will be posted online later this week. The Harvard CAPS/Harris Poll survey is an online sample drawn from the Harris Panel and weighted to reflect known demographics. As a representative online sample, it does not report a probability confidence interval.