That's what a new Rasmussen poll seems to suggest. According to an automated telephone survey of 1,000 U.S. adults taken Monday and Tuesday, 53 percent of Americans prefer capitalism, 20 percent prefer socialism, and 27 percent say they're not sure. The exact question was: "Which is a better system--capitalism or socialism?"
Compare that to a Dec. 29 poll on similar concepts, cast in different terms, in which 70 percent said a "free market economy" is better than "an economy managed by the government" (which collected 15 percent--the same as "unsure").
Rasmussen points out that "free market" may simply elicit more favorable responses than "capitalism." That could be, but it's also worth noting that a lot has happened between Dec. 29 and now. Most importantly, the nation has experienced a political dispute over whether President Obama's economic fixes amount to "socialism"--a dispute played out routinely on cable news and Sunday talk shows, on which experts argue whether Geithner's designs amount to "nationalization," and in the talking points of conservatives who accuse the president of the term in question--"socialism."
Perhaps that dispute has led "socialism" through a liminal process; perhaps "socialism" now signifies "that which is hated by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and the most vocal of Obama's critics." The debate over Obama's economic rollouts has, at least, turned "socialism" and "capitalism" into political terms, and thus put them up for consideration by America's conscious mind, whereas once they were largely unconscious givens--the scenery behind political drama, but not part of it.