Is Success Possible In America? Americans Are Still Hopeful

July 25, 2012, 2:00 PM GMT+0

(Week of 7/21/2012) In a speech in Virginia last week, President Obama made some comments about the nature of success in America that set off a firestorm of criticism from Republicans, who claimed that the President was minimizing the role of individual initiative as a way of justifying redistributive taxation. In the latest Economist/YouGov poll, respondents were asked a series of questions about success in America, including how possible it is to rise up the economic ladder, who deserves credit for economic success, and whether successful individuals have obligations to society.

Two out of three Americans in the latest poll believe it’s possible to start out poor, work hard, and become rich. All age groups are hopeful. So are 64% of Democrats. Even more Republicans, 77%, believe the Horatio Alger story is still possible today.

Republicans and Democrats have different views about how to credit success. Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to agree that when someone succeeds, it’s partly because others have helped him or her out. Republicans are more than twice as likely as Democrats to say that when someone does not succeed, it’s usually their own fault. Democrats are also much more likely to believe those who have succeeded have an obligation to give back.