America Speaks: Do they think the American Dream is attainable?

Candice JaimungalSocial Media Contributor
November 11, 2020, 1:00 PM UTC

Half (54%) of Americans think the American Dream is attainable for them personally, according to a YouGov poll conducted in July. 

Related: Is the American Dream still attainable? 

We asked our YouGov Chat users to dig deeper and tell us whether they think the American Dream is attainable or unattainable. You can join the conversation here.  

“I am living proof. Work hard, learn skills, and you can do whatever you desire.” 

For YouGov Chat users who believe the American Dream is attainable, some say they – or someone they know – is living proof of it.  

  • “Because we have known people it has happened to. It takes a lot of hard work and ingenuity.” 

  • “I'm an example of it, as is most of my extended family and friends from the old neighborhood.” 

  • “Because I did it. Worked 3 jobs, had 2 kids. Took computer classes. Found a good paying job. Have a nice home and my kids both have advanced degrees and great jobs.” 

Others say that anything is possible if you work hard... 

  • “I believe it is still possible to get an education, work hard, and achieve a comfortable level of success. Even with the current state of our country we are more affluent than most.” 

  • “If people work hard and put their mind to it then it is possible.” 

  • “I think with hard work and determination, dreams can come true but you as owner of that dream must be the driver and make it happen...” 

  • “If you can get a decent paying job and you work hard and set your mind on it, discipline, you can achieve it.” 

Some Chat users say that, although the American Dream is attainable, things are different in comparison to past generations.  

  • “You can still attain your goals through hard work and perseverance. I do think that it is harder now than it was when I was a kid. Sadly, it seems much harder for minorities as well. Though that part has not changed much over the years.” 

  • “It isn’t the same but hard work pays off and those with an entrepreneurial spirit and determination certainly can still achieve success.” 

  • “Hard but not impossible to overcome barriers to success. Creativity and flexibility are more the key now than just the "hard work" of generations past.” 

“The idea that it's based on hard work is bullshit. It's based on privilege, connections, and sometimes pure luck.” 

Other YouGov Chat users disagree, stating that they do not believe the American Dream is attainable. Many point to wealth inequality and higher living costs.  

  • “Lack of subsidized health care, unfair and unequal pay, archaic minimum wage, unreasonable employment standards and requirements for positions that may be exploited at the same time.” 

  • “Lack of access; low-paying job; higher living costs” 

  • “Wealth inequality has grown so much, that the system is now weighted against those wanting to pull themselves up out of poverty.” 

  • “High student loans, low wages, high unemployment for youth, skyrocketing cost of education, skyrocketing cost of living and cost of housing, inability for people to buy homes, achieve good wages, and save for retirement. This country is screwed.” 

  • “The minimum wage does not allow adults to own or even rent a home. Even two adults with full time jobs can barely afford a home, let alone two kids and a picket fence!” 

Some Chat users pointed to systematic racism and the general unfairness towards marginalized groups and those in poverty... 

  • “America is unequal. It’s attainable if you are straight and white, but people of color can’t attain it because they are set back in life. The same goes for LGBTQ people.” 

  • “Too much poverty in the country. Systemic racism, (redlining, job discrimination) keeps people of color away from the dream. For most others, it’s pure luck or knowing the right people.” 

  • “The structural unfairness of the system. If you’re poor, it’s very unlikely you can work your way out of poverty as the system is designed to keep people in their places.” 

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Every day, members of YouGov Chat are asked to share their opinion on a topic in the news. We allow anyone to take part in these chats, and do not display or weight results in real-time. Instead, to make the experience informative but still interactive, the chat displays weighted data from YouGov Direct to show them how the rest of the country voted. This enables us to pose the question to all, while retaining data accuracy and validity when communicating results.      

 
YouGov Chat seeks to add to the ‘what?’ (the quantitative poll result) by finding the ‘why?” (qualitative open ends) in a member’s own words. Learn more about YouGov Chat here.       

Image: YouGov