On the eve of Independence Day, a new survey by The Atlantic/Aspen Institute shows that the American Dream is suffering but is not dead.
The survey conducted by Burson-Marsteller and Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), unveiled that while 72 percent of Americans say they are currently “living the Dream” or believe they can in their lifetime, more than 65 percent believe that obstacles are “more severe today than ever,” and that overall the nation is on the wrong track.
“This year’s survey shows that Americans believe they themselves can achieve the American Dream, even as they harbor serious doubts about whether others or their own children will have the same opportunity,” said Donald A. Baer, Worldwide Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Burson-Marsteller.
Baer further said that as America enters its next presidential campaign, the findings of the survey provide important insights into national self-perception.
Macro versus micro
Despite societal pessimism, the survey revealed the potential to tap into people’s personal optimism, said Mark Penn, Executive Vice President and Chief Insights Officer at Microsoft.
“The macro-picture is that things are poor but the micro-picture isn’t,” he said, adding that the dichotomy may be, in part, attributed to partisanship versus the negative perception of politics prevalent among American people.
Believers are still out there
The good news is that there are still some folks out there who believe in the American Dream. Blacks, Hispanics and Asians are more likely to feel the ideals of freedom, equality, and opportunity, as being alive and kicking, according to the new survey.
Rosy outlook stumbles for whites, on the other hand, notably Americans aged 51-64 who are feeling more negative than any other age group about the American Dream.
Are Millennials yet another “Me Generation”?
According to the report, Millennials may just be another “Me Generation.” Respondents 30 and under were the only age group to name “pays a lot of money” as the top element of their dream job.
“In this study, they [Millennials] come out as very confident with perhaps sharper elbows than we thought,” Penn told CNNMoney. “They’re a bit more of a ‘me generation’ than expected.”
The definition of the American Dream itself is changing with today’s respondents prioritizing flexibility and economic security over other factors such as having kids, which were more popular in the past.
Obstacles to achieving the American Dream
Decline of work ethic was seen as the single largest barrier to obtaining the American Dream, although different political views have contrasting opinions on its causes and remedies.
Republicans tend to accuse the government, the decline in moral values and work ethic. Democrats blame a lack of economic opportunity and argue strongly for bridging the inequality gap through access to free healthcare and quality education for all.
The American Dream debate
The 2015 survey on the American Dream marks the seventh consecutive year that Burson-Marsteller and PSB have conducted the research.
The survey, which was conducted from June 8 to June 19, asked participants about their views of the American Dream, breaking down responses by age into four categories: 30 or younger (the Millennials), 31-50, 51-64 and 65 and over.
Now, what do YOU think of the American Dream?