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Chronicling Capitalism: America’s Relationship With The Free Market

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

The NPR podcast “Throughline” looks at the history behind headlines.  

In every episode, hosts Rund Abdelfatah and Ramtin Arablouei go in-depth with interviews and research to illuminate a current topic. Their latest series looks at a topic that’s top-of-mind for a lot of people: capitalism.

According to a 2019 Gallup poll, Millenials and Gen Z are evenly split when it comes to opinions on capitalism and socialism. But those views aren’t without their nuance.

Despite the relatively high proportion of young adults who view socialism positively, a much higher 83% have a positive view of “free enterprise.” This nearly matches the 88% of Gen Xers and 91% of baby boomers/traditionalists who view free enterprise positively. Still, opinions of free enterprise have weakened slightly among millennials/Gen Zers in the past few years.

All three age groups have a more subdued reaction to “big business” than free enterprise — but the percentage viewing it positively among young adults has now fallen below 50% (to 46%). The image of big business also fell among Gen Xers between 2012 and 2018, but has since rebounded to 55%.

Love it or hate it, how did our relationship with the free market form?

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