Despite the paranoia and distortions from the right, actual support for socialism in this country seems pretty non-existent. For example, the health care reform which the right pretends is a radical proposal actually is designed to increase the number of customers for private insurance companies. Neither a government-run program or even a single-payer program was ever considered. Government ownership in General Motors was a result of a plea from a private company for assistance with plans to return it private ownership, and certainly not a step towards government nationalization of industry. Calls for true socialism are limited to people who are marginalized on the far left without any influence on public policy, and I bet their is a very small number of them.
In such an atmosphere I would expect a poll of capitalism versus socialism in this country to show a result with virtually everyone choosing capitalism. A Rasmussen poll shows socialism doing far better than I’d expect. Rasmussen both does real polls on elections which are of reasonable value, and does a number of less reliable polls between elections to promote conservative memes (and in this case to promote a book by Scott Rasmussen). Their poll shows, “Sixty percent (60%) of U.S. adults nationwide say that capitalism is better than socialism.” In contrast, 18 percent disagree and 21 percent are not sure.
I’m sure we will see some conservatives use this to argue they are on the right side per public opinion. Actually I would definitely be on the side of supporting capitalism over socialism–provided we have the necessary government regulations to keep markets functioning properly. The same is true of Barack Obama as well as the Democratic Party. On the other hand, many of the actions of Republicans I have opposed over the years, from Richard Nixon’s wage and price controls to George Bush’s use of Medicare funds to provide corporate welfare for the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, are due to Republican actions which are contrary to free market principles. At other times my opposition to conservatives stems from their lack of understanding that some government regulation is needed for markets to function–a concept which even Adam Smith understood.
While I doubt many Americans currently support socialism, my bet is that some people who not actually support socialism are unsure about saying they oppose it because of the repeated Republican attacks on socialism. Some people might hear the false claim that Obama is a socialist and respond by saying they support socialism.