Fading Dreams: The Erosion of the American Dream in the Eyes of US Voters

A recent Wall Street Journal-NORC poll reveals a significant decline in Americans’ belief in the iconic “American dream,” a notion that hard work can lead to upward mobility. The findings underscore a pervasive disillusionment with the economic landscape, reflecting changing sentiments compared to previous years. This blog post delves into the key insights from the poll and explores the factors contributing to the erosion of the American dream.

Plummeting Confidence in the American Dream

According to the poll, just over a third of Americans (36%) still believe in the American dream—a stark drop from last year when 68% affirmed that hard work could pave the way to success. A more significant shift in the national attitude is indicated by this decline, with forty-five per cent of respondents expressing the belief that the American dream, which was once believed to be a foundational component of the American identity, is no longer legitimate. In addition, 18% of people think it has never been true, which is more than double the number believed ten years ago.

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Economic Outlook and Perceptions

The survey reveals a nuanced perspective on the economic landscape. Half of the respondents feel that life in the US has worsened compared to 50 years ago, while only 30% believe it has improved. A substantial 50% agree that the economic and political system is “stacked against people like [them].” This sentiment is compounded by the perception that the elites in the country look down upon a significant portion of the population.

Age and gender play significant roles in shaping these perceptions. Those under 50 express less faith in the power of hard work to bring success (28%) compared to those over 65 (48%). Men are notably more confident in the efficacy of hard work than women, with 46% of men expressing confidence compared to 28% of women.

Economic Satisfaction and Political Implications

Despite this disillusionment, respondents are cautiously optimistic about the economy. Thirty-five per cent rate the economy as “good” or “excellent,” a notable increase from 17% in May 2022; the drop in inflation from the previous year’s peak has likely contributed to this improvement, making it easier for Americans to manage their finances. However, concerns persist, with other polls indicating ongoing economic anxiety.

Impact on Political Landscape

These sentiments have direct implications for the political landscape. President Joe Biden faces challenges in shoring up support for his reelection, with perceptions that he has mismanaged the economy. A Financial Times-Michigan Ross survey echoes these concerns, with over half of respondents indicating they are financially worse off under Biden and nearly half attributing economic damage to his policies.


The decline in belief in the American dream and the complex mix of economic sentiments underscore the nation’s challenges. As the US navigates these changing dynamics, political leaders and policymakers must address the underlying factors contributing to this erosion of confidence. Once a beacon of hope, the American dream now faces a critical juncture, demanding careful consideration and proactive measures to restore faith in the promise of opportunity through hard work.


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