Two-Thirds of UK Under-45 Want to Live in Socialism: Study

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UK Labour MPs hold placards promoting socialism as they demonstrate against Brexit during a public relations stunt outside Portcullis House on March 5, 2019 in London, England. A study by UK think tank Institute of Economic Affairs found 67 percent of Millennials and Generation Z say they long to live under socialist policies. The oldest Millennials would be in their 40s today.
UK Labour MPs hold placards promoting socialism as they demonstrate against Brexit during a public relations stunt outside Portcullis House on March 5, 2019 in London, England. A study by UK think tank Institute of Economic Affairs found 67 percent of Millennials and Generation Z say they long to live under socialist policies. The oldest Millennials would be in their 40s today. (Image: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

A recent study conducted by a UK think tank uncovered a startling and widespread shift in the attitude of the Millennial and Zoomer (Gen Z) generations away from a desire to live in and construct society with traditional structures of economy and governance and toward a discerningly socialist and leftist model of life.

The July 6 study titled Left Turn Ahead? Surveying Attitudes of Young People Towards Capitalism and Socialism is the 81st installment of the UK’s Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) Current Controversies series. The report is penned by Dr. Kristian Niemietz, Head of Political Economy at the IEA. 

The study finds the stereotypes around Millennials as a politically apathetic generation are no longer merited. Instead, Niemietz says this batch of the human race, along with Zoomers, now count as a “hyper-politicised generation, which embraces ‘woke’, progressive and anti-capitalist ideas.”

Niemietz found in surveying the demographics that while 67 percent of respondents said they wished to live under socialism’s economic policies, between 71 and 75 percent attributed issues such as climate change, racism, selfishness, and England’s housing crises to being a problem rooted with capitalism.

“Young people associate ‘socialism’ predominantly with positive terms, such as ‘workers’, ‘public’, ‘equal’ and ‘fair’. Very few associate it with ‘failure’ and virtually nobody associates it with Venezuela, the erstwhile showcase of ‘21st Century Socialism’,” says the report. 

The research found that 75 percent of those interviewed conformed to the stereotypical opinion that “Socialism is a good idea, but it has failed in the past because it has been badly done.” Niemietz noted the opinion should no longer be counted as a cliche because “It is also the mainstream opinion among Millennials and Zoomers.”

“None of this means that Britain is full of young Marxist-Leninists,” Niemietz cautioned. “Socialist ideas are widespread, but they are also thinly spread.” 

Niemietz, who studied economics at Berlin’s Humboldt University in 2007 and earned his Ph.D in Political Economy at London’s King’s College in 2013,  is careful to point out that although Millennial and Zoomer respondents were predisposed to agree with anti-capitalist statements, they often would also simultaneously agree with a “diametrically opposed” pro-capitalist statement. 

“This suggests that when young people embrace a socialist argument, this is often not a deeply-held conviction. It may simply be the argument they are most familiar with.”

‘Millennial Socialism’

Despite the apparent surge in positive attitudes towards communism’s precursor, socialism, by younger generations, the report says those who hold differing views should not throw in the towel, but should instead “Take ‘Millennial Socialism’ far more seriously than they currently do. They should treat it as a challenge and engage with it, rather than dismiss it or deny it exists.”

The term Millennial Socialism was coined by several mainstream media outlets between 2018 and 2020 in a litany of articles that sometimes supported, sometimes opposed, and yet still managed to propagate both the term and the concepts it encapsulates, says the study. 

One example of how media has pushed the leftist tide forward is given in the example of Teen Vogue, the youth-focused variant of Vogue Magazine, which Niemietz says “was originally solely concerned with fashion and celebrity gossip.”

An individual takes in early 1900’s socialist and communist propaganda from Adolf Strakhov and Valentin Shcherbakov during an exhibition allowed to be held at Tate Modern in London on November 7, 2017. Two thirds of the UK’s U45 population want to live under socialism after being educated by media rhetoric, found a recent study.
An individual takes in early 1900’s socialist and communist propaganda from Adolf Strakhov and Valentin Shcherbakov during an exhibition allowed to be held at Tate Modern in London on November 7, 2017. Two thirds of the UK’s U45 population want to live under socialism after being educated by media rhetoric, found a recent study. (Image: DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)

“About five years ago, though, the editors saw the sign of the times, and gave the magazine a complete makeover. It now frequently runs stories which, with some differences in style and emphasis, could just as easily appear in the Socialist Worker.”

Some examples of article heads in Teen Vogue given are “Who is Karl Marx: Meet the Anti-Capitalist Scholar,” “4 Big Takeaways from Bernie Sanders’s Speech on Democratic Socialism,” and “How White Supremacy and Capitalism Influence Beauty Standards.”

Notably, the author says that while Teen Vogue’s paradigm shift actually cost them readers in their purported age demographic, they instead garnered a meaningful increase in readership from those aged 20-39, “Views that were once associated with fringe groups such as the Socialist Workers Party now have mass market appeal.”

Not just a growing phase

Niemietz, who also authored the book Socialism: The Failed Idea That Never Dies. says those who have observed the color shift in younger generations have been prone to discount it as merely a rebellious phase that people will grow out of when they leave university and enter the workforce. 

“If a man is not a socialist by the time he is 20, he has no heart; if he is still a socialist by the time he is 40, he has no brain,” is one common folk saying Niemietz uses to illustrate the point. The problem, he says, is that while demographics such as “Millennial,” “Gen X,” and “Zoomer” are penned by writers rather than scientists and there are no agreed upon definitions for the age brackets, using a simple approach to the matter such as Pew Research Institute has done, classifying Millennials as born between 1981 and 1996 and Zoomers as 1997 to somewhere in the 2000s, produces the revelation that the oldest Millennials are now mainstream participants in society in their 40s, and it’s this group where socialism and its consequences have become the desired lifestyle.

The author says because of this reality, it is dangerous to dismiss socialist opinions as if they were merely uttered by “a teenager in a Che Guevara-shirt.”

“But if the opinions of younger people are already relatively settled, rather than just a transitory phase (and so far, it very much looks that way), then what we present in this paper is not just a snapshot of the opinions of one randomly picked subgroup of the population. Rather, it is a preview of what will be the mainstream opinion in Britain tomorrow.”

A U.S. based study, the 2021 American Worldview Inventory, which defined Millennials as being born between 1984 and 2002 and Gen X as 1965 to 1983, found the majority of both categories no longer believed in traditional values such as treating others as you would like to be treated yourself. Instead, more than three times as many Gen Xers and Millennials believed in getting revenge if someone has wronged them compared to the Boomer and Builder generations surveyed.