The siren call of the American dream may not be as powerful as it once was, but we are still a nation of believers, new research shows. Like the American population, the demographics of those who believe in the dream have changed over time. But the majority of us still believe the U.S. is a place where anyone can achieve fame and fortune.
In fact, fame and fortune have replaced faith and family as the linchpins of the American dream, a survey of more than 500 U.S. adults over 18 discovered. The survey was conducted by JWT, a marketing communications company.
Almost two-thirds of Americans said the dream is different from what it used to be. The country is moving away from traditional notions of the ideal life — one centered around community and family, with religious faith and middle-class values as the guiding ethos — toward one focused on making and spending money and winning recognition, the survey found.
While the dream is very much alive and attainable, achieving it is more of a challenge, the survey found. Almost 7 in 10 respondents said the dream became harder to realize for middle-class people in the past five to 10 years, up from 4 in 10 in 2008. And some hold the conviction that white, native-born Americans have the cards stacked against them, even though statistics indicate otherwise.
The exceptionalism of the American dream is also being questioned by younger Americans. While a majority of older generations believe the dream is unique, only 4 in 10 millennials hold that view.
Despite everything, though, belief in the dream endures, dented though it may be.
"While the dream is losing its luster, and Americans recognize that it's becoming significantly harder to achieve, the concept endures; 7 in 10 still believe in the idea, not much fewer than in 2008," said Ann Mack, JWT's director of trendspotting.
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