Poll: Government Hurts Our Chances of Success

Americans express dissatisfaction in the policies that are designed to help people get ahead.


Does the government hamper our financial success? According to a new poll from the Pew Economic Mobility Project, most Americans think the answer is yes.

The vast majority of Democrats, Republicans, and independents surveyed said that they want the government to make it easier for the poor and middle class to improve their economic outlook, but that they don’t think the government currently does a good job of doing so. Just over half of respondents said the government does more to hurt than help people trying to get ahead—a pretty harsh verdict.

Among the policies Americans supported were access to education (88 percent), job creation (83 percent), providing equal opportunities (79 percent), and letting people keep more of their money (78 percent).

Amid that disappointment in government policies, fewer Americans (less than one-third) ranked their own financial situations as “good” or “excellent.” But while we feel worse about ourselves, we feel better about the economy as a whole: 55 percent rated the national economy as “poor,” compared to 73 percent in 2009. Most of us also believe we are in control of our financial situation and that we will achieve “the American dream,” if we haven’t done so already. And just over half of respondents said they think they will be better off in ten years.

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Financial stability continues to rank near the top of Americans’ priorities, with 85 percent of respondents saying it was important to them. (In contrast, only 13 percent of respondents said the same of moving up the income ladder.) When asked to define what the American dream meant to them, respondents mentioned “security” and “stability” more than “wealthy” and “rich.’

That finding echoes the results of the 2009 Pew survey, which similarly asked respondents how they define the American Dream. Then, they ranked financial security ahead of home ownership.

How do you define the American dream?