NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


October 18, 2004

A new study suggests that this election may be as much about freedom as anything else, with those placing the highest value on it increasingly identifying with the Republican Party. The report is entitled, "The American Dream in 2004," and was commissioned by the National League of Cities. The purpose of the report was to find out whether people still believe in the American Dream, whether it is still achievable, and what it means.

  • The good news is that 63 percent of Americans believe that they are presently living the American Dream.
  • Moreover, 62 percent believe that it is achievable for most Americans and 65 percent think their children have a good shot at it.
  • Even among those who those who say they are not living the American Dream themselves, 42 percent are fairly confident that they will achieve it some day.

Of course, the American Dream means different things to different people, says Bartlett. For the bulk of people, it means a good job and financial security. But, somewhat surprisingly, living in freedom was the second most important factor

Among those who cite freedom as an essential element of the American Dream, young people were most likely to list it as number one.

  • Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 cited living in freedom as the key element of the American Dream 45 percent of the time.
  • By contrast, only 24 percent of those between the ages of 50 and 64 put freedom at the top of their list.

Politically, 44 percent of Republicans say that freedom defines the American Dream, while only 29 percent of Democrats do.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, "Election 2004: The American Dream," October 18, 2004; and "The American Dream in 2004: A Survey of the American People," National League of Cities, September 2004.


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