Americans welcome our new socialist overlords

A new poll shows that only a small majority of people think capitalism is better than socialism.

By Alex Koppelman

Published April 9, 2009 6:20PM (EDT)

A new Rasmussen poll came up with what seem to be some pretty stunning results: Americans aren't all that wild about capitalism, even when given socialism as the alternative. Only 53 percent of respondents told Rasmussen they think capitalism is better than socialism, while 20 percent think the opposite and 27 percent say they're not sure.

There's been some hyperventilation about these results, of course. Conservative blogger Gateway Pundit headlined his post on the poll, "The Death of America," for instance. But I don't think we can really say anything at all with confidence based on these results, because Rasmussen didn't provide a definition of their terms when they conducted the poll, and definitions -- or the lack thereof -- can have a significant effect on survey results.

Frankly, I doubt that many of the respondents could accurately describe either socialism or capitalism (no offense intended to them; that puts them on the same level as Glenn Beck). And even those people that have a real understanding of the terms could legitimately disagree on what they mean -- are we talking about Soviet Russia, or Sweden? A market run solely by the invisible hand or post-New Deal America?

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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