ABC News/Yahoo! News Poll: People are losing faith in the American Dream

Holly Bailey

It's no secret the country is in a funk about the dismal economy, but a first-ever ABC News/Yahoo! News poll finds that many Americans are now harboring serious doubts about whether the so-called American Dream is still achievable.

Just half the country says the American Dream "still" exists, according to the poll, while 43 percent of those surveyed say it "once held true" but no longer does. The survey, which was conducted by Langer Research Associates, described the American Dream as "if you work hard, you'll get ahead." The poll, the first in a series of ABC News/Yahoo! News surveys, showed that the percentage of believers in that dream (as defined) dramatically shifts when broken down by factors like income, education and race.

To no one's surprise, people who make more money tend to have more faith in the American Dream. Among Americans with household incomes surpassing $75,000 a year, 57 percent say the dream is still achievable. But among those with incomes under $25,000 a year, the results are evenly split: 46 percent say the dream is still possible, and 46 percent say it "once held true but does not anymore."

"Perceptions of life in America don't get any more basic than this," pollster Gary Langer told The Upshot. "It is a telling indication of the economic discontent this country has been and still is suffering."

Education also seems to make a difference. Among those with college degrees, 58 percent still believe in the American Dream. By comparison, 48 percent of Americans educated at the high school level or lower say the dream "once" existed but doesn't anymore -- a total just 1 point above those who believe the dream is still possible.

Among political parties, a majority of Democrats and Republicans still have faith in the dream, but self-described independents have serious doubts. Forty-nine percent say the dream is no longer possible, compared with 46 percent who say it is. Meanwhile, people in the West tend to be more positive about the American Dream, with 58 percent saying it's still achievable, compared with just 46 percent in the Midwest, which has been hit hardest by the nation's job losses.

Broken down by race, 57 percent of nonwhites say the American Dream still holds true — 9 points higher than the number of whites who say so.

METHODOLOGY: This ABC News/Yahoo News! poll was conducted Sept. 8- 14, 2010, among a random national sample of 1,006 adults. Respondents were selected using an address-based sample design. Households for which a phone number could be ascertained were contacted by phone; others were contacted by mail and asked to complete the survey via a toll-free inbound phone number or the Internet. Results for the full sample have a 4-point error margin. This survey was produced by Langer Research Associates of New York, with sampling, data collection and tabulation by SSRS of Media, Pa.

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

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