Is capitalism losing its hold on the land of the free? In a new survey, only 53 per cent of American adults said they believe capitalism is better than socialism. Twenty per cent said socialism is better, while 27 per cent are not sure which is better.
The Rasmussen poll, conducted by telephone, found significant differences in the responses of different age groups. Among those under 30, it's a virtual tossup: 37 per cent prefer capitalism, while 33 per cent favour socialism; 30 per cent are undecided.
Support for capitalism rises with age. Of the thirty-somethings, 49 per cent are for capitalism and 26 per cent for socialism. Those over 40 strongly favour capitalism, with just 13 per cent of them believing socialism is better, Rasmussen Reports said.
As you would expect, support for capitalism is strong among those who identify themselves as Republicans. They favour capitalism 11 to 1. Democrats are more closely divided, 39 per cent to 30. Among those not affiliated with either party, 48 per cent are for capitalism and 21 per cent for socialism.
The overall results may be surprising, but it would be easy to read too much into them. Rasmussen points out that in another recent survey, 70 per cent of Americans said they prefer a free-market economy.
“The fact that a 'free-market economy' attracts substantially more support than 'capitalism' may suggest some scepticism about whether capitalism in the United States today relies on free markets," Rasmussen said.
That rings true. In the middle of a deep recession, public anger at what is seen as corporate greed is widespread.
Another point to note: The poll-takers did not define either capitalism or socialism.
Postscript: A Gallup survey released on Monday finds that 71 per cent of Americans are confident that President Barack Obama, who has been saying it cannot be business as usual, will do the right thing for the economy.