Survey: American Dream Remarkably Resilient Despite Major Economic and National Challenges

| March 30, 2011

Cincinnati, Ohio— The American Dream remains remarkably resilient despite a continued wave of bad news, enormous economic challenges, international uncertainty, and institutional distrust, says a new survey by the Center for the Study of the American Dream at Xavier University.

While confidence in the economy and optimism about America’s place in the world has significantly declined, respondents are nonetheless still confident in their own personal ability to achieve the American Dream.  63% say they are “extremely” or “fairly” confident that they have already reached it or will in their lifetime.  This is a small decline from the 67% who felt this way last year.

“This survey clearly indicates that while America is suffering through some very tough times, the American Dream remains a powerful force,” said Michael Ford, Founding Director of the Center for the Study of the American Dream.  “Despite historic national challenges, the strong majority of Americans display a defiant personal optimism concerning their ability to reach the American Dream.”

The four most prominent elements of the Dream are "a good life for my family," "opportunity," "freedom," and "financial security." However, some anxiety is evident in the year-to-year order of importance as "a good life for my family" (+9%) and "financial security (+5%) overtake both "opportunity" (-6%) and "freedom (-1%).

Last year the Midwest led the rest of the country in negative judgments on most critical measures concerning the country’s direction and the state of the Dream. Midwest states including Ohio , Illinois, and Wisconsin are still lowest in their assessments.  However, now other parts of the country, chiefly the Far West and Mid-Atlantic states, have joined the Midwest with more critical views.

Also of note, a large majority (60%) believe that immigration is important to keeping the American Dream alive.  In fact, America’s immigrant population continues to energize and invigorate the American Dream—immigrants hold markedly more positive views about the country and the Dream than do other Americans.  While 40% of the immigrant sample believes the country is on the “right track,” only 23% of the overall sample share this belief.   

“America’s immigrants continue to lead the way in reinvigorating the American Dream,” said Ford.  “Their confidence and optimism in our nation’s future is critical to the American Dream’s survival and enduring influence.”

The Second Annual State of the American Dream SurveyTM was conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates (FM3) from March 6-15, 2011.  Telephone interviews were conducted with 1,003 adults age 18 and older.  The margin of error for the sample is +/-3.1

Learn more about the study and the Center at