However, sometimes it's necessary to look deeper into a poll to prevent perceptions or generalizations materializing out of evidence that simply isn't there, or that is perhaps taken out of context.
I've seen a couple posts (here and here) about the new Rasmussen Survey where only 53% of Americans polled said they prefer capitalism versus socialism, which is exactly the kind of poll I think can be misleading unless all the evidence is examined.
As it turns out, Americans aren't so much in favor of socialism over capitalism as they are in calling capitalism "free markets."
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.This is further supported by comparing the most recent poll with the December 29 poll about "free markets." Only 15% in the December poll supported a government run economy and that number remains unchanged in the most recent poll. Have fundamental attitudes toward government changed or has the poll verbiage changed?
It's also interesting to note that more people (27%) are unsure of which they prefer than those who know in their heart socialism is better (20%.) Is it because they really don't like capitalism or because they prefer to think of America as a free market society versus capitalistic?
Here's what I took from this survey: conservatives, and Republicans in particular, have been slow to define the other side as "socialists" versus the all encompassing "liberal" label. This poll should be a wake up call to our side to think about how we define issues and to not repeat the mistakes of the past. McCain in particular was slow to clearly define the ideological differences between a free market society and Obama's vision of a socialist America.
It's no longer conservatives versus liberals, it's conservatives versus socialists, and we'd be smart to define the debate in such terms.