I’m inclined to say this should be re-polled after they get the bill for Great Society II, but if memory serves, America’s reaction to the New Deal wasn’t exactly a Reaganesque golden age.
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…
It is interesting to compare the new results to an earlier survey in which 70% of Americans prefer a free-market economy. 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.
Of note: The terms “capitalism” and “socialism” weren’t defined in the poll, leaving us to wonder what twentysomethings have in mind when they think of the latter. I think Matt Yglesias is right that because of their age they’re less inclined to associate it with Soviet-style repression than with third-way Hopenchange, which poses a dilemma for Obama’s critics on the right. Do we continue to slap the scarlet “S” on him and risk having his popularity with kids make them more comfortable with the concept of socialism by association? Or do we dial down the rhetoric, call off the alarm, and risk people becoming more comfortable with The One’s statism-by-inches because, after all, it’s not capital-S “socialism”? My guess: Doesn’t much matter. If the economy turns around, the stimulus will get credit and there’ll be Strange New Respect for command economies. If it doesn’t, Ayn Rand gets a whole new generation of fans. It’s out of our hands.