Which Utopias Have Broad Appeal?: Using Opinion Polling to Test Utopian Visions

by Holden Karnofsky (utopia@holden.zone).


  • Full paper (DOCX). Note that it’s only about 20 pages of actual paper – the rest is appendices.
  • PDF version if you can’t open Word files.
  • Excel workbook with my full data and calculations (with free-form responses and other information removed to protect participants’ identities.)
  • Appendix 4 Extended (DOCX)- an extended appendix listing all free-form comments that survey participants left on the Utopias they were polled on. (The full paper contains an abridged version of this appendix, with about one page of randomly chosen comments per Utopia.)
  • Slides I used for a presentation on the paper.

If you’d like to take the survey itself, go here: https://www.guidedtrack.com/programs/e9h5nes/run

(Note: this only asks you a random subset of the questions, to keep the time commitment low)


Traditionally, a Utopia is a window into a single author’s vision for the world. But to what extent are these visions shared by a broader audience? To date, there is little to no research on how popular and appealing different Utopias are for large populations.

This paper serves as a proof of concept for analyzing population-level Utopian visions. I polled what is, to my knowledge, the easiest reasonably large population available to survey: Amazon Mechanical Turk participants. I collected several hundred surveys in which participants rate different Utopias and properties of Utopia (many drawn from prominent Utopian literature, such as Bellamy’s Looking Backward). I share the full results and highlight a number of findings, including (a) the popularity of Utopias that emphasize “freedom” rather than “pleasure”; (b) surprisingly small, differences between people who lean left vs. right politically; (c) the difficulty of finding any Utopia with near-universal appeal.