Contrary to Political Rhetoric, Immigrants and US Born Still Believe the American Dream is Attainable

RL12-17-201587% of both groups want to achieve American Dream and reject the notion that the American Dream has become a myth.

Despite ongoing, tough economic conditions, immigrants to the United States, as well as native-born citizens, overwhelmingly believe they can realize the American Dream of buying a home and being financially set, according to the latest findings from a Harris/Nielsen Poll commissioned by Express Employment Professionals.

No matter where someone was born, 87% want to achieve the American Dream. There also is overwhelming agreement with 86% of the general population believing that the “American Dream,” is attainable. Interestingly, the characteristics and meaning of the “American Dream” were the same regardless of birthplace.

The overwhelming majority of respondents defined the “American Dream” as owning a home and earning enough money to live but still have plenty of free time. Responses indicated faith these things are also possible for everyone to attain, if they work hard and apply themselves.

Both groups of respondents agreed the decisions and actions they make have a big effect on whether or not they reach this goal. For those citizens born in the U.S., 86% say “The choices I make impact whether or not I will achieve the American Dream,” while 80%of immigrants agree with that statement.

Most respondents soundly rejected the notion the American Dream is a myth. When asked to agree or disagree that the American Dream is a myth that no one can obtain, 79% of U.S.-born and 77% of foreign-born disagreed.

“On the cusp of 2016, the American Dream is alive and well, particularly among immigrants,” said Bob Funk, CEO of Express Employment Professionals and a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City.

Funk added, “Even though there is grave concern about the economy, the vast majority of individuals remain optimistic, with immigrants especially driven to achieve the American Dream. The survey results indicate that immigrants want to assimilate, learn English and they’re willing to work hard to do it. They are positive people looking to make a positive impact.

“As American businesses look for workers with the right skills, immigrants remain a welcome source of vitality with a zeal to work and they are a reminder that the American Dream has broad appeal. People come to this country because they believe in the American Dream and they help make it a reality for all of us,” Funk said.

The survey was conducted in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, and Chinese, by Harris/Nielsen Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals in October 2015.

Eighty-seven percent of U.S. residents, regardless of birthplace said they “want to achieve the American Dream,” and 78% said it is something they can achieve in their lifetimes. Eighty percent of immigrants said they can achieve it in their lifetimes.

When presented with the statement, “I am living the American Dream,” 60% of immigrants agreed while 55% of U.S.-born citizens agreed.

When given the statement “The American Dream can only be achieved with luck rather than skills and hard work,” 34%of all U.S. residents, regardless of their birthplace, agree while 66% disagree.

Both groups agreed by large margins “The American Dream is possible for everyone if they work hard and apply themselves.”68% of U.S.-born and 71% of immigrants are in agreement with that statement.

At the same time, however, doubts exist. When asked if they think “The system is rigged and the American Dream is not open to everyone, just some people,” 61% of U.S.-born Americans, and 55 percent of immigrants, agree.

All respondents were asked to choose between two differing points of view:

“Smith says: If you work hard and play by the rules, you can make a good living in America.  Jones says: It doesn’t matter how hard you work, you just can’t get ahead in the U.S. anymore. You’ll be lucky to live paycheck to paycheck.”

There was little difference between immigrants and native-born Americans in their responses. Sixty-three percent of U.S.-born citizens and 61% of immigrants agree with Smith.

Ninety-five percent of U.S.-born citizens say “Immigrants come to the U.S. seeking a better future for their families” and 87% agree with the statement “Immigrants come to the U.S. because life here is easier than in their home country.”

Seventy-eight percent of U.S.-born citizens believe “Immigrants take jobs that Americans refuse to do” and 61% believe “Immigrants come to the U.S. because they can receive public assistance programs like welfare.”

Views are split over whether “Immigrants lower the wages that would otherwise be paid to Americans.” Fifty-three percent of U.S.-born citizens agree with that statement and 47% disagree.

Survey Methodology

Study by Harris Poll

The survey was conducted online by Harris/Nielsen Poll on behalf of Express Employment Professionals Oct. 5 – 21, 2015, and included 2,043 U.S. adults aged 18 or older from the general population and an oversample of 781 foreign born U.S. residents age 18 or older. Data is weighted to be representative of the general U.S. population and U.S. residents who are foreign-born.

Results were weighted as needed for age by gender, education, race/ethnicity, region and household income. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. Totals may not equal the sum of their individual components due to rounding. No estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated; a full methodology is available.

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