Notes on a failed survey about socialism
Perhaps there's a reason that it failed!
If you caught my recent appearance on Majority Report — or if you happen to be one of the people who I contacted about it — you may recall that I have been working on a survey about socialism. Specifically, over the past few weeks, I have been asking wonks and media types the following four questions:
As a rule, I surveyed people who are often associated with socialists (or with some nebulous progressive left), but whose actual position on these questions are unclear. I also made a point of noting that the responses would be on the record.
I conducted this poll because I wanted to gather information on a question that has puzzled me of late. Are socialists simply dealing with a problem of co-option — of people who call themselves socialists, when in fact their political commitments are to capitalism? Or are we also dealing with a more ridiculous issue where we are misidentifying as socialists people who are politically committed to capitalism, and who do not even identify as socialists themselves?
I think this poll has answered my question, though not in the way that I preferred. Originally, I planned to publish the results and do some basic analysis by grouping respondents based on their answers. But so many media figures and wonks simply left these four simple questions on “Read” that there is no use in analyzing the handful who actually responded. Bear in mind, almost all of these were people who are fine with chatting with me about other matters, and who publicly comment about politics on a regular basis (usually because they are paid to do so).
Take away from this what you like, but my distinct impression is that while we do have an niche of public figures who call themselves socialists (regardless of their actual commitments), we also have a significant number of people who do not want to take a position on questions important to socialists, even though they are fine with weighing in on everything and anything else.
Anyway, thanks to those who responded, even if just to challenge my questions. And special thanks to Sam Seder who, regardless of our disagreements, seems to appreciate that these are issues that deserve a public conversation.