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The American Dream: Fiscal Conservatives vs. Liberals

Fiscally conservative liberals and conservatives equally “strongly agree” or “agree” that the American Dream is harder to obtain now than in the past, but they have different opinions on the greatest obstacles to achieving it.

| BY Donald Liebenson

With government gridlock and the partisan political climate topping the list of Affluent investors’ national concerns, Spectrem’s Millionaire Corner endeavors to steer clear of politics. But when it comes to those who identify themselves as conservative or liberal on fiscal issues, a recent Millionaire Corner survey of Affluent households about the definition and attainment of the American Dream reveals a telling divergence of opinion and perhaps surprising accord.

Both view “equal opportunity for all people” as the foundation of the American Dream, a term coined in 1931 by James Truslow Adams.  But whereas liberals rank educational opportunities second, conservative respondents rank having sufficient retirement assets.

Fiscal conservatives place a much higher premium on owning a home as part of the American Dream than do their liberal counterparts (50 percent vs. 43 percent), while liberals are more likely to state that an important tenet of the American Dream is that future generations will do better than the current generation (59 percent vs. 51 percent). They, too, are more likely to define the American Dream as having job security (52 percent vs. 45 percent of fiscally conservative respondents.

Fiscally conservative liberals and conservatives equally “strongly agree” or “agree” that the American Dream is harder to obtain now than in the past (81 percent each). Conservatives are only slightly more likely to agree or strongly agree that future generations will struggle to achieve the American Dream (81 percent vs. 78 percent).

As to the obstacles they perceive to be standing in the way of achieving the American Dream, there are marked differences of opinion. Nearly eight-in-ten of fiscal conservatives (77 percent) believe the current political climate is the biggest barrier vs. 66 percent of liberals.

Fiscal liberals, meanwhile, rank educational costs as the second biggest obstacle to achieving the American Dream (56 percent vs. 44 percent of conservatives), while fiscal conservatives believe it is international concerns (44 percent vs. 38 percent of liberals), which were dominating the news when this survey was taken (affluent investors overall said that news stories about international events are currently having the biggest impact on their economic outlook).

Fiscally liberal respondents were twice as likely as their conservative cohorts (26 percent vs. 13 percent) to say that educational opportunities were the biggest obstacle to achieving the American Dream. Thirty-eight percent also consider present job security as a barrier to the American Dream compared with 28 percent of conservatives.

About the Author

Donald Liebenson

Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.  

A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.