Do Americans Still Believe in the American Dream?

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The American dream is alive and well — at least for most of us — according to a new Gallup poll.

Some 70% of those polled said that they consider the American dream to be achievable. The American dream is commonly defined as the belief that upward mobility is possible in this country for anyone who works hard and plays by the rules — even immigrants and those born in less than fortunate circumstances. 

There were some disparities in the poll results, however. Democrats were less likely to view the American dream as within their grasp than Republicans, with nearly four in ten believing that it is unachievable. And not surprisingly, those living in households with incomes of $100,000 or more had a rosier outlook than those in households earning $40,000 or less — by a difference of 80% to 61%.

“Perhaps most troubling,” said Gallup, “is the relatively higher rate of young women across the country who describe the American dream as unattainable, placing them apart from older women and men in general.” Only 58% of women between 18 and 49 thought they could attain the American dream. For women 50 and older, the figure was 73%. 

According to research by Harvard University’s Equality of Opportunity Project, neighborhood environments have substantial effects on children’s long-term economic outcomes and upward mobility, but they vary greatly from state to state — these are the U.S. counties where the American dream is dead.

Gallup conducted their survey in the latter part of June through telephone interviews with a random sample of 1,018 adults, 18 and over, in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Interview with participants who are primarily Spanish-speaking were conducted in Spanish.

While the poll’s results overall would seem to suggest that we are still mostly optimistic as a nation, another Gallup poll, earlier this month, revealed that American pride in the U.S. is at its lowest point since the organization first measured it in 2001. Only 45% of those interviewed described themselves as being “extremely proud” to be American. (Between 2002 and 2004, the numbers were 69% and 70%.) Participants said they were least proud of our politics and most proud of our country’s scientific successes and military. 

Career prospects play an important role in people’s overall well-being. But it’s not the only factor. Financial security and personal relationships are crucial, too. People often use them to describe if and how happy they feel — these are the happiest states in America.