Dear Washington Post,
While I teach a course on surveys, Emily Ekin’s take on polling of Gen Y on social issues (Millennials like socialism – until they get jobs) fails to take into account historical reality.
When it comes to predicting social change, surveys have mostly been wrong.
In 1963 some 60% of Americans believed the March on Washington would be useless and counterproductive.
In 1965 a Gallop poll found a plurality of Americans, 48%, agreed the civil rights movement was “infiltrated by communists and led by communist trouble-makers”.
A bit over 100 years ago, socialists argued for the 40 hour work week, and only socialists advocated for public sewer systems. Both Democrats and Republicans were against public sewer systems.
My family came from Milwaukee. While my great grandfather’s company testified against the 40 hour work week before a Congressional committee, many Milwaukeeans identified themselves as “sewer socialists” and went so far as to support city parks and improved education.
Back then, the socialist presidential candidate never polled positively, much less was elected, by a majority of Americans. Yet today even the staff of the Cato Institute respect our national holiday in honor of one of those “communist trouble-makers,” seem not eager to turn off our public water, and some of them may take the weekend off.
Early spring in Wisconsin, where we can't wait for our first BBQ