Public support for the free market has declined sharply in the last year, most drastically in the United States. The Chinese are now more enthusiastic about capitalism than the Americans.

Wall Street and the City won’t like this – which means it must be good news for the rest of us: Public support for the free-market system has been falling sharply over the last year, according to a poll by GlobeScan.

The country where this was most pronounced is the United States, for decades capitalism’s biggest cheerleader. Within a year, support in the US has dropped by 15 per cent.

While eight years earlier, four fifths of the population were supportive of the free-market system, just 59 per cent now see it as the best way forward. The drop was particularly pronounced among people on low incomes: Among Americans with incomes below $20,000, faith in the free market has dropped from 76 per cent to 44 per cent between 2009 and 2010.

In Britain too, people have lost confidence over the past year: Support for capitalism has fallen from more than 60 to 55 per cent.

In France, where anti-capitalist feelings have always been more widespread, just 31 per cent see the free-market system as the best economic system.

Graph - support for capitalism by GlobeScanThis stands in stark contrast to the development in China. In this ostensibly communist country, the public’s support of capitalism has increased and is now stronger than in the USA, at 68 per cent.

Among the 25 countries polled, Germany is capitalism’s biggest fan (69 per cent in support). Interestingly, these two countries have both not been as heavily affected by the financial and economic crisis as some of the others – or rather, China was able to absorb the shock of the crash through a massive stimulus programme, while Germany’s exports recovered rather quickly after the crash.

Over the past decade, Germany has kept wages far below economic growth, thus boosting its own exports – providing a lot of machinery for China’s industrial expansion – while harming other Eurozone countries, who didn’t have the possibility to devalue. Hardly a sustainable strategy.

So, the public’s opinion seems to be following the economic development. In the US, Britain and other countries of the West, the damage that the financial crash and the subsequent recession have done is finally bringing about a change of attitude among the wider population. A good start.