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Poll Finds Young Americans More Open to Socialist Ideas


Supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist who competed against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, react as they listen to him speak during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016.

Supporters of Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed democratic socialist who competed against Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination, react as they listen to him speak during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, July 25, 2016.

A survey of younger Americans who have grown up since the Cold War ended shows a surprising level of support for socialism and communism, according to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, which commissioned the opinion poll.

The report found that 53 percent of Americans younger than 35 are dissatisfied with the current economic system and think that "socialism" may be good for them. About 45 percent of young people say they would be willing to vote for a socialist candidate for president — a trend the Victims of Communism group calls "the Bernie Sanders bounce," referring to strong support among young people for the unsuccessful presidential candidacy of the Vermont senator, who describes himself as a democratic socialist.

Marion Smith, executive director of the Washington-based foundation, told VOA the growing acceptance of socialist viewpoints among members of the millennial generation - those who have come of age since the year 2000 - is a result of a lack of basic knowledge of communism and how it operated during the 20th century.

The foundation said the report it issued this past week is the first of its kind. The mention of "growing support" for socialism measures the differing responses of survey participants differentiated by age - listed as Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers and Matures. In general the broadest support for socialist ideas was found in the youngest group, with the lowest support among so-called "matures," those of retirement age.

FILE - Russian communists carry portraits of former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin as they march along Kremlin Towers during a May Day rally in Moscow, May 1, 2015. The millennial generation of Americans is being criticized as being unaware of the historical ills of communism.

FILE - Russian communists carry portraits of former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin as they march along Kremlin Towers during a May Day rally in Moscow, May 1, 2015. The millennial generation of Americans is being criticized as being unaware of the historical ills of communism.



'Unaware' of history

"The millennials are sadly unaware of the history of communism in the last century and of the crimes committed by the Communist Party in the last 100 years," said Smith.

"As a result, the younger generation is not looking for ways to improve the existing system of free enterprise, the rule of law, democratic government, and respect for human rights, but want to try a completely different system. They are interested in the socialist system, which we think is dangerous."

The foundation said its survey, entitled "American Attitudes Toward Socialism," will be repeated annually. It was conducted by YouGov, an international market-research firm, through internet interviews with 2,300 Americans aged at least 16.

Smith contended that young Americans support socialism because they confuse the concept with liberalism. He said U.S. educators should present modern history to young people in a way that will enable them to understand "the crimes committed in the name of socialism and communism."

The survey also found that surprisingly large numbers of young Americans said they were "not familiar with" many of the headline names of both international politics and tyranny over the previous 100 years, including Mao Zedong (42%), Che Guevara (40%) and V.I. Lenin (32%). About one-quarter of the millennials surveyed said they were "not familiar with" Harry S. Truman, the 33rd U.S. president, who left office in January 1953.

The Foundation for the Victims of Communism was established in 2003 with assistance from the U.S. Congress, with a mission of showing the American people the history of tyranny committed by communist regimes throughout the world in the last century. The Foundation believes that communist tyranny has killed about 100 million people worldwide.

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