Only 53% of American adults believe capitalism is better than socialism.
The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey found that 20% disagree and say socialism is better. Twenty-seven percent (27%) are not sure which is better.
Adults under 30 are essentially evenly divided: 37% prefer capitalism, 33% socialism, and 30% are undecided. Thirty-somethings are a bit more supportive of the free-enterprise approach with 49% for capitalism and 26% for socialism. Adults over 40 strongly favor capitalism, and just 13% of those older Americans believe socialism is better.
20% of Americans polled preferring socialism to capitalism is a big thing, I'm not sure what the percentage has been historically, but I suspect it is considerably lower. The polling of my age-group (adults under thirty) is even more surprising. It's almost evenly matched, with socialism trailing capitalism by only a few percentage points. Not bad for an ideology all but declared dead almost two decades ago.
What exactly is going on? Part of it may seems to be an increasing disenchantment with free-market ideology, and a willingness to consider other options. Another dynamic at work here is the end of the Soviet Union. No longer does "socialism" translate to ruthless men wearing bad suits lording themselves over the populations of Eastern Europe and Russia. Now socialism is associated in the mind of most Americans with European social democracy. At least our affluent classes have visited Europe and know that this is nothing to be afraid of. We now associate socialism with France and Germany. Often, liberals (justifiably) hold up the Nordic Model as providing a higher standard of living than our own society: Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland (Iceland is rarely mentioned in this context anymore, for obvious reasons).
This poll bodes will for Obama's agenda. Conservatives can shout all they want about how Obama is a socialist, but what they don't realize is that socialism is the bogeyman it once was. Thank god.