Xavier survey reveals divisions between Presidential campaign and Americans' view of American Dream

Michael Ford's column in the Washington Post debunks five myths about the American Dream | January 6, 2012

On the heels of the Iowa Caucuses, Michael Ford, founding director of Xavier’s Center for the Study of the American Dream, debunks five myths about the American Dream in the Sunday Washington Post.

Ford cites the center's current research revealing a deep schism between the Presidential campaign’s relevance to the American Dream, Americans’ distrust in government and elected officials, along with the declining importance of home ownership to an individual’s definition of the American Dream, and the role of immigration in defining the American Dream.

“We have been observing distrust, alienation and disappointment among Americans when it comes to our political discourse and Americans’ relationship with our political leaders,” Ford said. “So it comes as no surprise that our latest figures show that two-thirds of us see no relevance in the Presidential campaign to our American Dream. Even more disheartening, over 80 percent of Americans surveyed believe that elected officials have lost sight of the American Dream.”

Ford's column, published on Sunday, Jan. 8, examines five myths about the American Dream:

• The American Dream is about getting rich: In a national survey of more than 1,300 adults, only 6 percent of Americans rank “wealth” as their first or second definition of the American Dream.

• Homeownership is the American Dream: 7 percent of Americans rank home ownership as their first or second definition of the American Dream, and 1 in 4 mortgage owners would be willing to walk away from their mortgage obligations.

• The American Dream is American: Even in tough economic times, 60 percent of Americans believe that immigration is important for keeping the American Dream alive.

• China threatens the American Dream: The Chinese economy is actually one-third the size with a population four times larger. Yet the amount of U.S. debt owned by foreign countries, including China, has increased to almost half, up from 5 percent in 1970.

• Economic decline/political gridlock are killing the American Dream: Over 80 percent of Americans have less trust in politics in general than they did a decade ago. Contrast it with the fact that Gallup polling in the 1970s showed that 70 percent of Americans “had trust and confidence that the American government could handle its domestic problems.”

“Between the Iowa Caucuses earlier this week and the New Hampshire primary next week, it’s time for our Presidential candidates to stop the rhetoric and take stock of what the American people are saying about the state of our country and their confidence in our leaders,” said Ford. “What strikes me is that through our research, we always find that despite the lack of confidence in our government and institutions, the American people remain confident in themselves, against all the odds. In fact, 63 percent said they are confident they will attain their American Dream.”

For more information, visit Xavier’s Center for the Study of the American Dream.