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It is often claimed that Americans are critical of capitalism. But a new global comparison reveals that this is not true. A survey on attitudes toward capitalism in 33 countries shows that the image of capitalism is worse in 31 countries and in only one country – Poland – is it better than in the USA. 

The poll was conducted between June 2021 and November 2022 in a total of 33 countries. In most cases, the survey was conducted by Ipsos MORI and comprised representative samples of around 1,000 respondents in each country. The survey took place in the United States and in small, medium, and large countries in Europe, South America, Asia, and Africa. In total, 33,452 respondents took part in the survey. In the United States, Ipsos MORI surveyed a representative sample of 1,090 people.

Attitudes to economic freedom in the United States

The survey confirms that a majority of Americans are in favor of economic freedom. Respondents were presented with a total of six statements about economic freedom. Three of these statements had a clear pro-market tendency, e.g.: “I think private business alone should decide what products to manufacture and what prices to charge for them; the state should not be involved in that.” Three statements had a clear pro-state tendency, e.g., “We need a lot more state intervention in the economy, since the market fails time and again.” Agreement with the three pro-market statements averaged 30 percent, while agreement with the pro-state statements averaged 18 percent (Figure 1). 

Figure 1 

United States: Six statements on a good economic system

Question: “Below is a list of various things that people have said they consider to be a good economic system. Which of the statements would you say too?”


Note: All data are in percentage of respondents

Source: Ipsos MORI survey 20-091774-30

What do Americans associate with ‘capitalism’? 

Americans are more likely to associate the term ‘capitalism’ with positive than negative things. On average, 68 percent of American respondents selected positive associations, such as “prosperity” and “freedom.” In contrast, negative terms such as, for example, “greed” or “corruption” were chosen by 62 percent. However, the rather small difference between the two figures also shows that the frequency with which Americans associate positive and negative terms with ‘capitalism’ differs only slightly, as can be seen from Figure 2.

Figure 2

USA: Associations with ‘capitalism’

Question: “If you think for a moment about the word 'capitalism', all sorts of things might come to mind. May I read a few things out loud to you? For each one, please tell me whether that is something you

associate with “capitalism.’”


Note: All data are in percentage of respondents 

Source: Ipsos MORI survey 20-091774-30

18 Positive and negative statements about ‘capitalism’

Respondents were presented with a total of 18 statements about capitalism, 10 of which were negative and 8 of which were positive. The level of agreement with the positive statements (averaging 28 percent) is slightly higher than the level of agreement with the negative statements (averaging 25 percent). 

The most frequently selected negative statements about capitalism included, for example, that capitalism is determined by the rich, they set the political agenda. Many Americans also blame capitalism for promoting selfishness and greed. In contrast, other negative statements, such as that capitalism leads to hunger and poverty, to economic and financial crises, to wars or even to fascism, were cited far less frequently (Figure 3).

The pro-capitalism statement that received the strongest support (33 percent) is also the one that is the most defensive among the available options: “Capitalism may not be ideal, but it is still better than all other economic systems.” About one-third of respondents also respond positively that “Capitalism encourages people to do their best,” that “Capitalism means economic freedom,” and that “Capitalism means that consumers determine what is offered, and not the state” (Figure 4).

Figure 3

USA: Statements about capitalism – 10 negative statements

Question: “Which of the following statements about capitalism, if any, would you agree with?”


Note: All data are in percentage of respondents 

Source: Ipsos MORI survey 20-091774-30

Figure 4

USA: Statements about capitalism – 8 positive statements

Question: "This list contains various statements about capitalism. Which of these statements would you agree with?”


Note: All data are in percentage of respondents 

Source: Ipsos MORI survey 20-091774-30

How do attitudes to capitalism in the USA compare to attitudes in other countries?

When the figures for economic freedom and the two capitalism questions are combined, the result is a coefficient of 1.30. This coefficient is decisive for comparison with other countries. In our survey, there are 31 countries that exhibit more anti-capitalist (or less pro-capitalist) tendencies than in the USA, only the Poles are more pro-capitalist than Americans (Figure 6). 

Especially in Asia, capitalism enjoys a positive image: South Korea and Japan are, after Poland and the USA, the two most pro-capitalist countries. Even in Vietnam, which calls itself a socialist country, capitalism has more supporters than in 26 of the 33 regions where the survey was conducted. While in France and many other countries, capitalism has a very negative image, people in Nigeria – another surprise – frequently associate capitalism with positive terms such as “prosperity” and “progress.”

Figure 6

Overall coefficient on attitudes toward capitalism in 33 countries


Note: The lower the coefficient, the stronger the anti-capitalist attitude 

Sources: Allensbach Institute survey 12038, Sant Maral Foundation, Ipsos MORI surveys 20-091774-30, 21-087515-07, 22-014242-04-03 and 22-087515-44, Indochina Research, FACTS Research & Analytics Pvt. Ltd. and Research World International Ltd.


Rainer Zitelmann is a German historian and sociologist and author of the book IN DEFENSE OF CAPITALISM, for which this survey was commissioned. 

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