It’s no secret that the last few years have been hard on capitalism, with the Great Recession and the resulting global tide of populist fervor. But just how bad have the last few years been for capitalism? Well, its most ardent supporter these days is a “communist” nation.
That’s at least one way to interpret a new Pew Research poll exploring views on inequality and opportunity in 44 nations across the world.
One of the main findings of the report is that publics in the emerging and developing world are far more optimistic about their countries’ future than their counterparts from developed nations. In the developed world, a median of 66 percent of respondents said children growing up in their country today will be worse off financially than their parents, compared to just 28 percent who said they’ll be better off financially.
By contrast, only a median of 25 percent of respondents in emerging countries said children growing up in their country today will be worse off than their parents financially, and 50 percent said today’s kids would be better off. This was roughly equivalent to the 51 percent of respondents in developing world who said children growing up today in their country would be be better off financially than their parents, although 39 percent of the developing world said today’s children would be worse off financially.
Pew also asked respondents about their views on inequality and capitalism. A global median of 60 percent of respondents said that the gap between rich and poor was a “very big problem” in their country. Views on inequality were fairly consistent across the board, with a median of 60 percent of people in both emerging and developing economies saying that inequality was a very big problem in their country, and 56 percent of people in the developed world saying the same.
Despite the concern over inequality, support for free market capitalism remained fairly strong. A global median of 66 percent agreed that most people are better off in a free market economy, even if some people are rich and some people are poor. Support for capitalism was greatest among the developing world, where 71 percent of respondents supported capitalism, but capitalism’s approval rating was still over 60 percent in both the developed and emerging world.
Across the board, however, Asian nations led the way in support for capitalism. Among the 10 developed nations included in the survey, for example, South Korea was the most supportive of capitalism, with 78 percent of South Koreans saying capitalism benefits most people, compared to a median of 63 percent across all advanced economies. Similarly, the 80 percent of Bangladeshis who supported capitalism was higher than in any of the other eight developing economies surveyed.
Support for capitalism in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, on the other hand, was not only the highest among the emerging economies, but the highest of all 44 nations included in the survey. No less than 95 percent of Vietnamese respondents said most people were better off under free market capitalism. That’s a whopping 15 points higher than in Bangladesh, which had the second highest level of support for capitalism of all the countries in the survey.
Among the emerging economies, support for the free market was the second highest in the People’s Republic of China, another nominally socialist country. 76 percent of Chinese respondents said most people were better off under free market capitalism, compared to 18 percent of Chinese who disagreed.
Thus, capitalism is most popular is a nominally socialist nation, and its four biggest fans are all Asian nations.