America, the land of the free and the home of the brave; the place in which everyone wants to live, right? It is the country renowned for liberty, equal opportunity, and freedom of speech. But is that true anymore? A recent poll appears to indicate the decline of American patriotism and growing concern for the happiness and well-being of future generations. The American dream might be fading.
The American Dream Is Not What It Used to Be
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the American dream as “the ideal that every citizen of the United States should have an equal opportunity to achieve success and prosperity through hard work, determination, and initiative.” The goal is that with each generation the dream strengthens. However, a Wall Street Journal-NORC General Social Survey poll found that 78% of those surveyed said they didn’t feel life for their children’s generation will be better than it was for their own. Surprisingly, white participants were less confident about their children’s future happiness than black or Hispanic respondents.
The reasons vary, but the top categories that figured into this poll the most were education, income, and employment. Let’s face it, college is expensive.
Even if President Joe Biden’s plan to cut school debt happens, the price of education is a hefty one. Especially when there’s no guarantee graduates will get that high-paying job they’ve been expecting. In fact, 56% of those polled said getting a four-year degree isn’t worth the cost because students graduate without the needed real-life job skills while carrying a heavy burden of debt. Still, 42% believe higher education will open the doors for that better job and higher pay.
When asked how they would describe the state of the nation’s economy today, 80% ranked it as poor and only 15% said it will get better over the next year, while 47% predicted it would get worse and 38% think it will stay the same.
With inflation and the country possibly headed for a recession, personal finances rank high on the “what makes people happy” scale. It’s hard to achieve the American dream when you’re paying $6 a gallon for gas or $5 for a carton of eggs. The majority of the survey takers, 44%, chose the option, “My finances are in worse condition than I expected for this stage in my life” while 39% said they were about where they expected to be. WSJ reported that less than 3 in 10 people agreed their family has a good chance to improve their standard of living.
WSJ reported Jennifer Benz, vice president of public affairs and media research at NORC, as saying, “That strikes me as something that’s kind of an intractable level of pessimism.” The Journal report continued, “[Benz] said that lower gas prices or other marginal changes in the economy are unlikely to shift people’s fundamental disappointment with their financial standing.”
In terms of cost of living, 32% said “It’s rising and creating minor financial strains” while 28% said it was causing major strains. Only 6% said they were not concerned. The survey asked which category alarmed them the most and inflation was ranked number one with 65% choosing that. Second on the list was housing, then health care and prescriptions, followed by student loan debt. Childcare costs came last on the list of concerns.
Depending on the source, unemployment numbers have gone way down or there are still a lot of people without work. Liberty Nation Economics Editor Andrew Moran wrote, “The US economy created 311,000 new jobs in February, down from a downwardly revised 504,000 in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),” referring to the February Jobs Report.
More than half of those who responded to the survey said they didn’t think it would be easy to find a new job that had comparable benefits and pay. According to NORC, this was the highest level since 2010.
But that’s not all. The American dream is also about freedom of religion, family values, and patriotism, yet the results of the survey found all three areas to be declining at an alarming rate. Under the religion category, for example, 32% of responders said they never attend church or religious services, 19% attend less than once a year, and only 3% said they go about once a month. In 1998, the Journal asked how important religion was to the poll takers. At the time, 62% said it was very important compared to only 39% today.
Traditional family values are not what they used to be. Everyone is too busy to sit down to family meals, have game nights, or just spend time with family members. The survey showed that Americans’ values regarding having children, working hard, and involvement in the community have dropped significantly. Of the under-30s group, only 23% said that having children was very important to them.
In the same 1998 survey as mentioned above, 70% of respondents said patriotism was “very important,” yet in this new study, only about 38% believe the same, and only 23% of those under 30 said patriotism was important to them compared to 59% of seniors 65 or older.
Bill McInturff, a pollster who worked on a previous Journal survey that measured these attitudes along with NBC News, said that “these differences are so dramatic, it paints a new and surprising portrait of a changing America.’’ He surmised that “perhaps the toll of our political division, Covid and the lowest economic confidence in decades is having a startling effect on our core values.’’
How does America stack up to other countries? When asked this question in 2016, 19% said other countries are better than the US. In this new study, that number has risen to 27%. Only 21% of survey takers said America “stands above all other countries in the world” but at least half said it is one of the greatest.
Are We a Happy Nation?
Living the American dream, but are we happy about it? Unfortunately, the Journal reports that only 12% of those who took the poll described themselves as “very happy.” This is the lowest number on record since NORC started asking these questions back in 1972. “Three in 10 respondents called themselves ‘not too happy,’ the highest share on record over that half-century period.”
When 78% of respondents said they do not feel confident that their children’s generation will be better, that is a sad, red flag. How much culpability does wokeness play into society’s woes? According to the survey, 63% said companies should not publicly be so politically involved, taking stands on hot political issues. Half of those surveyed said they don’t like being asked to use gender-neutral pronouns.
Of those who took the poll, 44 identified as Democrats, 38 as Republicans, and 18 described themselves as Independent or had no party affiliation.
All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Liberty Nation.
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