Pew Research Center earlier this month, and I have to say it sort of surprises me a bit. The poll was to find whether the public had a positive or negative perception of different political terms.
It comes as no surprise that the term "socialism" is still viewed negatively by most Americans -- the word has been demonized for decades in this country even as we institute more and more socialist programs (such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, food stamps, Pell grants, public education, etc.). Americans don't seem to mind socialist programs -- as long as we don't call them socialist.
It's also no surprise that the term "conservative" is viewed positively by most Americans. Since the Reagan administration, it has been very popular for most Americans to describe themselves as conservatives (even though they may support many liberal and even socialist policies).
The real surprises come with the terms "liberal" and "progressive". The Republicans have done their best to demonize the term liberal in the last few years (and continue to do so). But only 39% of the population have bought into that demonization, while half of the population (50%) views the term positively. I imagine this comes as a surprise to many liberals, since many of them were so convinced the word had been demonized that most, including myself, are now calling themselves progressives.
But the biggest surprise of all (and a very pleasant surprise) is that the term "progressive" (which is defined in the Oxford American Dictionary as "favoring or implementing rapid progress or social reform") is viewed positively by 67% of all Americans -- that's five percentage points better than "conservative". And this positive view of "progressive" crosses all political lines, including 55% of Republicans, 68% of Independents, and 76% of Democrats.
It's starting to look like most Americans are ready for progress and social change. Maybe that shouldn't surprise us considering the continuing recession, joblessness, wealth & income inequality, and growing corporate power.