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If the Tea Party were anything to go by this year, there wouldn’t be much more in a name than irony. There is of course a lot to say about the concepts and catchphrases thrown about in their rhetoric, including those related to the revival of the time-honored debate about socialism and capitalism.

But are Americans responding as expected? Possibly not.

The results of a Political Rhetoric Test, released May 4 by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, suggest that for Americans the concept of ‘socialism’ is “not so negative” while the idea of ‘capitalism’ is “not so positive”.

As tradition would dictate, socialism continues to be held in a negative light by a majority of Americans while capitalism is regarded positively by most. Almost 60 per cent of respondents reacted negatively to ‘socialism’ compared to 37 per cent with ‘capitalism’.

The partisan divide was also present in the results. Independents and Republicans reacted negatively to ‘socialism’ with 64 and 77 per cent respectively. Democrats were split on the same concept, with 44 per cent reacting positively and 43 reacting negatively.

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Twice as many blacks reacted in a positive way to ‘socialism’ than whites with 53 and 24 per cent respectively.

However young people could be the strongest indication of changing times in America. To both ‘socialism’ and ‘capitalism’, 43 per cent of respondents under 30 responded with positive reactions. People over 65 in general were most notably negative towards ‘socialism’, with 73 per cent reacting negatively.

The Pew Research Center’s April research tested the reactions of over 1,500 adults to nine concepts of importance in modern America. ‘Family values’ and ‘civil rights’ came in first and second, with 89 and 87 per cent of respondents stating a positive reaction to those phrases. ‘Militia’ was the concept with least positive reactions, the largest being 36 per cent of male republicans.

There has been a revival in recent times of the debate about the influence of socialism in modern America. Republican candidates have led sweeping victories over Democrats across the country, largely in connection with anti-health-care campaigning and constant referral to the  ‘-isms’.

Republican Rick Scott is the latest contender for Governor to surge in the polls behind a well-funded campaign against the Obama administration’s health-care ambitions. He’s currently leading his party primary in Florida, where he is expected to compete against Democrat Alex Sink for Governor.


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