Socialist Ideas in 2018: Karl Marx's Legacy is Manifestly Complex

On his 200th birthday, Karl Marx's ideas persist around the world, in some places more than others, but it's complicated. While majorities worldwide embrace free market competition, many also embrace ideas rooted in Marxist ideals such as free education, healthcare, and even a right to universal income.

The author(s)
  • Clifford Young President, US, Public Affairs
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs
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Washington, DC - Two hundred years after the birth of Karl Marx, half of all adults surveyed by Ipsos across 28 countries consider that socialist ideals are of great value for societal progress today (50%), but nearly as many (48%) view socialism a system of political oppression, mass surveillance and state terror. These are some of findings of the latest Ipsos Global @dvisor survey, which explores the perceptions of socialist ideas in the 21st century.  The poll of was conducted online among over 20,000 adults aged under the age 65 in March and April of this year. 

The findings highlight considerable differences, including skepticism and approval, between countries in the way in which socialist ideas are currently perceived:

  • Across all the countries surveyed, citizens from the People’s Republic of China are most likely to agree that at present, socialist ideals are of great value for societal progress (84%) followed by people from India (72%) and Malaysia (68%). Countries were citizens are least likely to agree are the United States (39%), France (31%), Hungary (28%), and Japan (21%). 
  • The opinion that socialism is a system of political oppression, mass surveillance and state terror is most prevalent in India (66%), the U.S. (61%), and South Korea (60%), and least so in Sweden (34%), China (31%), Spain (30%), and Russia (29%). 
  • Two thirds of the people globally (66%) and in the U.S. (70%) agree that free market competition brings out the best in people. People from India (86%) are most likely to agree, followed by those from Malaysia (84%), Peru, and South Africa (both 83%). In contrast only about half of respondents in Sweden (52%), Belgium (51%), Germany (49%), and fewer in France (43%) agree.
  • While half of the people surveyed across the world (52%) think that individual freedom is more important than social justice, views vary widely across countries. People in India (72%), the U.S. (66%), and South Africa (64%) are most likely to believe that individual freedom caries greater importance than social justice. In contrast, people in Germany (38%), China (37%), and France (36%) are least likely to agree.
  • Globally, nearly seven in ten agree (69%) that it is right for people who are talented to earn more than those who are less gifted. It is a view shared by 75% of Americans. Romanians, Russians (82% each), South Koreans, and the Chinese (both 81%) are most likely to agree while only about half of the respondents in Belgium (56%), France (51%), and Germany (47%) think the same. 
  • Across all 28 countries, nearly eight in ten people (78%) think that the rich should be taxed more to support the poor. Agreement is highest in Spain (87%), Serbia, and China (both 86%); it is lowest in the U.S. (67%), Brazil (66%), and South Africa (58%). 
  • Nine in ten across the world (89%) think that education in their country should be free of charge. Russians are most likely to agree (98%), followed by Serbs and Romanians (97% each). The idea has considerably less (but still substantial) support in the U.S. the South Africa (77% each), and Japan (64%). 
  • Free healthcare is viewed as a human right by 87% of those surveyed globally. It is an opinion shared by nearly all in Russia, Serbia, and Mexico (96% each). The only three countries survey where that view is shared by fewer than four in five people are South Korea (74%), the U.S. (72%) and Japan (47%).  
  • Asked whether every resident should have the right to unconditional basic income, 69% of all respondents worldwide (and 67% of those in the U.S.) agree. It is the case of 95% in Russia 95%, 87% in Turkey 87% and 83% in India.  The opinion that every resident should  have the right to unconditional basic income is not as consensual in Sweden (56%), Argentina (53%), and Japan (38%).
  • Only one third of all respondents globally (33%) and of those in the U.S. (32%) think that the working class is well represented in the political system in their country. Countries where respondents are most likely to say it is are Saudi Arabia (64%), India (63%), and China (60%). In contrast, respondents from France (19%), Mexico (19%), and Serbia (14%) are the least likely to agree. 
  • More than half of the people worldwide (62%) – and two thirds in the U.S. (66%) – believe that their opinions on important issues are different from those of people from other countries. Countries where people are most likely to think their opinions are different are Russia (81%), Romania (77%) and Turkey (74%). Countries where people are least likely to think of their opinions as being Those where people are least likely to think their opinions are different are Chile (51%), Great Britain (50%), and Australia (47%).


  • In total 20,793 adults were interviewed between March 23 and April 4, 2018. The survey was conducted in 28 countries around the world via the Ipsos Online Panel system (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Great Britain, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States). 
  • Approximately 1000 individuals aged 18-65 were surveyed in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Romania, Spain, Great Britain, and the U.S. Approximately 500 individuals aged 16-64 were surveyed in Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Hungary, India, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Africa, South Korea, Sweden, and Turkey. 
  • The precision of Ipsos online polls are calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 1,000 respondents accurate to +/- 3.5 percentage points and of 500 respondents accurate to +/- 5.0 percentage points. For more information on the Ipsos use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website.
  • Data are weighted to match the profile of the population. 17 of the 28 countries surveyed generate nationally representative samples in their countries (Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Poland, Rumania, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, and United States). Brazil, Chile, China, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Turkey produce a national sample that is considered to represent a more affluent, connected population.  These are still a vital social group to understand in these countries, representing an important and emerging middle class.


For more information on this news release please contact:

Clifford Young
President, U.S.
Ipsos Public Affairs
[email protected]

Chris Jackson
Vice President, U.S.
Ipsos Public Affairs
[email protected]

About Ipsos Public Affairs

Ipsos Public Affairs is a non-partisan, objective, survey-based research practice made up of seasoned professionals. We conduct strategic research initiatives for a diverse number of American and international organizations, based not only on public opinion research, but elite stakeholder, corporate, and media opinion research.

Ipsos has media partnerships with the most prestigious news organizations around the world. In Canada, the U.S., UK, and internationally, Ipsos Public Affairs is the media polling supplier to Reuters News, the world's leading source of intelligent information for businesses and professionals. Ipsos Public Affairs is a member of the Ipsos Group, a leading global survey-based market research company. We provide boutique-style customer service and work closely with our clients, while also undertaking global research.

About Ipsos

Ipsos is an independent market research company controlled and managed by research professionals. Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos has grown into a worldwide research group with a strong presence in all key markets. Ipsos ranks fourth in the global research industry.

With offices in 89 countries, Ipsos delivers insightful expertise across five research specializations: brand, advertising and media; customer loyalty; marketing; public affairs research; and survey management.

Ipsos researchers assess market potential and interpret market trends. They develop and build brands. They help clients build long-term relationships with their customers. They test advertising and study audience responses to various media and they measure public opinion around the globe.

Ipsos has been listed on the Paris Stock Exchange since 1999 and generated global revenues of €1,782.7 million in 2016.

The author(s)
  • Clifford Young President, US, Public Affairs
  • Chris Jackson Senior Vice President, US, Public Affairs

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