Nearly half of Americans say the American dream – that anyone can get ahead if they work hard enough – no longer holds true, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NORC poll.

Forty-five percent of respondents in the new survey said the American dream once held true but not anymore, while 36% said it still holds true; 18% said it never held true.

A Journal poll last year found that a 68% majority said if people work hard they are likely to get ahead in America, nearly twice the share as in the new survey.

Half of the registered voters surveyed said that life in America is worse today than it was 50 years ago, while 30% said life had gotten better. Among those polled, half agreed with the statement that the economic and political systems are “stacked against people like me,” while 39% disagreed.

Young adults and women seemed to be the most disillusioned with the American dream, according to the poll: 46% of men said the idea of advancement for hard work still holds true; just 28% of women said the same. Among voters age 65 or older, 48% said advancement for hard work still holds true, while 28% of those under age 50 said the same.

People of all political stripes reported feeling a sense of economic fragility and cynicism.

Stay-at-home father Oakley Graham, of Greenwood, Missouri, told the Journal that, despite living the American dream in some ways, he still feels financially insecure.

“We have a nice house in the suburbs, and we have a two-car garage,” Graham, 30, said. “But I’d be lying if I didn’t say that money was tight.

“No matter how good it looks on the outside, I feel we are all a couple of paychecks away from being on the street,” he said of himself and his neighbors.

According to Graham, who voted for President Joe Biden, life is “objectively worse” now than it was 50 years ago partly because labor unions are not as strong. Graham said his grandfather, who worked on a railroad maintenance crew, retired on a union pension, which is largely unheard of now.

For John Lasher, a supporter of former President Donald Trump from Springfield, Missouri, the American dream is “past tense.” It used to be that “if you showed up for work and you did your job well and you tried to help out, you were rewarded,” he said. “That’s not as true now as it was back then.”

Lasher, a 78-year-old retired electrical inspector for aircraft carriers and submarines, blames Democrat policies for the fading of the American dream. He told the Journal that the Biden administration is responsible for rising prices.

“With inflation, you’re working hard just to make ends meet, and then any extra work that you put in is just trying to get so you’re not in the hole,” Lasher said.

The poll found one bright spot amid Americans’ negativity, however. Some 35% rated the economy as excellent or good, up from the 20% who said so in March and the 17% who said so in May 2022. The share of voters rating the economy as “not so good” or poor also dropped at least 15 points, to 65% from 80% or more in the previous two polls.

Diana Walker, 62, of the Atlanta suburb of Decatur, is retired from a top delivery-service company but feels the American dream is disappearing.

“But to listen to my kids talk, how hard they have to work for what they need in life, how they feel that they have not been rewarded or they’re just a number, that they can be replaced at any time — I don’t know,” she told the Journal. “It was better for me.”

Walker, who is African-American and leans Democrat in her politics, also said that “the odds are always against Black people.” She added that minority groups have a difficult time getting mortgages and often don’t receive fair market value for their homes.

About 68% of Black respondents said the economic and political systems of the U.S. are rigged against them, compared to about half of Latino and white voters.

The poll was conducted Oct. 19-24 and surveyed 1,163 registered voters. It has a margin of error of plus/minus 4 percentage points.

Nicole Wells | [email protected]

Nicole Wells, a Newsmax general assignment reporter covers news, politics, and culture. She is a National Newspaper Association award-winning journalist.


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