Only 53% of all respondents surveyed agreed that capitalism is better, while 20% insisted that socialism is better.
Have Americans lost faith in the engine that made our country the leading economy in the world? Possibly not, because when the poll question was changed, replacing the term "capitalism" with "free-market economy", free markets were favored by 70%.
Rasmussen suggests an interesting explanation for this divergence in results:
The fact that a “free-market economy” attracts substantially more support than “capitalism” may suggest some skepticism about whether capitalism in the United States today relies on free markets.There is a germ of truth in this. American capitalism does not rely heavily on free markets, but that is largely the fault of the government, not of businesses.
When government shows its willingness to act as a regulatory sledgehammer, why wouldn't corporate America attempt to use the system to their advantage and to the detriment of their rivals? If the government concerned itself chiefly with ensuring the free flow of goods without partiality (which was the original intent of the Constitution's "commerce clause"), then we could say that American capitalism was built on a foundation of free markets. We are ridiculously far from that reality.
But I think Rasmussen attributes to the public more sophistication on this issue than it deserves. Ask the average American if capitalism relies on free markets, he or she will pause thoughtfully and then reply, "Huh?"
A more likely explanation is that the public has succumbed to a generation of anticapitalist propaganda in the media and in our public education system. This seems to be borne out in the demographic breakdown of Rasmussen's data.
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.Those of us who are old enough to have personal memory of the effects of fully-realized socialism (as seen in the late, unlamented Soviet bloc) are much more likely to distrust the economic prescriptions of the European Union and the Obama administration.
These results do not bode well for America, because it won't be long before the younger generation -- a third of whom currently prefer socialism -- takes the reigns of power. Some will probably come to their senses before then, but how many of these will go on to become activists for freedom?