Most Americans believe they have achieved the American Dream -- or will eventually. And that they’re better off than their parents. However, most say the next generation will be worse off, according to a Fox News poll released Thursday.
By a 59-35 percent margin, American voters believe they are better off than their parents.
Yet just 30 percent believe life for the next generation will be better than life today.
The poll was conducted for a special to air on Fox News Channel this Friday at 10PM ET, Saturday at 5PM ET and Sunday at 10PM ET. Hosted by Bret Baier, “Fox News Reporting: American Dream on the Ballot,” zeroes in on Colorado, where the race between Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Udall and Republican challenger Cory Gardner couldn't be closer. The special looks at which candidate Coloradans from all walks of life -- ranchers, hairdressers and even marijuana retailers -- think will help them achieve their American Dream.
A core tenet of the American Dream is that kids can count on doing better than their parents. Many Americans doubt that today: 61 percent say life will be worse for the next generation. That’s up significantly from 49 percent who felt that way two years ago -- and matches a previous high recorded just before the 2010 midterm election.
“Americans tend to be very optimistic about the future,” says Republican pollster Daron Shaw, who conducts the Fox News poll with Democratic pollster Chris Anderson. “So these findings are not only unusual, but may also indicate a watershed shift in our expectations as a country.”
The shift is driven mainly by a near 20-point drop in optimism among Democrats: in 2012, 59 percent thought life for the next generation would be better. While that’s down to 40 percent today, Democrats are still much more likely than Republicans (23 percent) and independents (25 percent) to be optimistic about life for the next generation.
At the same time, by varying degrees, majorities of Republicans (70 percent), independents (64 percent) and Democrats (51 percent) say life will be worse for the next generation.
Younger voters are more optimistic than other age groups, yet over half of those under 35 are pessimistic: 52 percent say life for them will be worse. Forty percent think it will be better.
Overall, more than 7 voters in 10 feel they have achieved the American Dream (33 percent) or are on course to realizing it (39 percent). One in four say the dream is out of reach (25 percent).
What defines the American Dream? For 61 percent of voters, graduating from college is important to achieving it. Seventy-four percent consider having a successful career a big part of it. Raising a family is seen as important to the dream for 83 percent of voters.
So it’s not surprising that college graduates (42 percent) are much more likely than those without a degree (26 percent) to say they are living the dream.
Same thing on income: those in households earning $100,000 or more annually are almost twice as likely as those earning less than that to say they have achieved the dream (51 percent vs. 26 percent).
Yet parents (27 percent) are less likely than non-parents (35 percent) to feel they have made it.
The Fox News poll is based on landline and cell phone interviews with 1,049 randomly chosen registered voters nationwide and was conducted under the joint direction of Anderson Robbins Research (D) and Shaw & Company Research (R) from September 28-30, 2014. The full poll has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.