According to a new CNN poll, 54% of the public believes that it is impossible for most people in the U.S. to achieve the American dream.

When asked what the American dream means to them, and whether that dream is achievable, here is a selection of their responses, some of which have been edited:

I believe the American dream is different for me than it was for my parents. For my parents, both born in 1929, their American dream was to do better than their parents, which meant a bigger house in a better neighborhood with better schools and better opportunities for their children. A dream that saw an America where, literally, the sky was the limit. While I share these dreams, they are secondary to my dream of an America that remains a beacon of hope for the world. I dream of an America that remains respected and admired. And I dream of an America where a child can grow up believing their country sets a positive example for the world.
Tim Smithwick, Media, Pennsylvania

The American dream? Is that the one about owning a home, sending your children to college, a one-income family, retiring at 65, and traveling to see the world after that? I DON’T THINK SO! It sounds wonderful and too good to be true. How about just purchasing/owning a home, not in California’s Central Coast, but where I can afford? There are no jobs. We both work, as does our daughter, and she works five days a week and is paying for her college, and taking four classes. My dream of home ownership is slipping away; although owning (and hopefully succeeding) in business ownership is a lot closer than home ownership.
Carla Hale, Lompoc, California

I think [the American dream] can be attained, but corporate America makes it very expensive and the schools that promise a better way of life don’t help place you in jobs that help you achieve it. For those who got to the American dream it is great for them, but others, like me, have no idea how to get there. I work daily wondering am I living the American dream or somebody else’s idea of it? I guess in my own way I am doing fine, at least I have an income, a loving wife, puppy, and a place to live, my health and lots of family. I do not see the need to define to others that the "American Dream" needs to be having a fancy car and lots of toys to go with it. I believe that too many people put stock in what a person owns and does to define their character instead of the type of person that person is. Is the person driving a fast, expensive car with a huge house, stocks, bonds and options somehow better then the person who doesn’t? I don’t believe this. I believe the American dream is in the eye of the beholder it is what makes the person experiencing it happy and full of Joy.
Phillipe Farneti, Herndon, Virginia

I believe it is still possible for an individual to work hard and through their efforts and initiative achieve a certain degree of personal wealth and success. I believe the American dream also includes the opportunity to live in a safe, thriving community where the democratic principles as envisioned by our founding fathers are still alive and well, and I believe that is no longer possible in the face of the wholesale buyoff of our political process by PACS and lobbyists. For this reason I believe the American dream is experiencing a slow but certain demise that we are already beginning to see impair the ability of the individual to succeed as more and more is required to achieve less and less.
Dana Conklin, Venice, California

I think that The American dream is the hardest on the middle class in this country. A person has to be lucky to achieve an American dream. It’s great if you can win the lottery, if you marry rich, inherit money, [are] born into the right family, or happen to win a huge monetary lawsuit. It is so hard for the middle class citizen to get out of middle class status by just working hard these days. The government of this country is against middle class people but are very much for the rich and very rich. Being middle class in America to means that you are born owing someone money and will die owing someone money. Being middle class in America to me means being second-class poor in America.
Nick Beck, San Diego, California

The American dream to most people involves owning a home. It also includes: good schools, health care, and employment. It’s true that it has become more difficult to achieve this dream. However, I think that we are partially to blame for this. I work in the mortgage loan industry and have an insight on how consumers spend their money. Americans are constantly living beyond their means and seem to have no boundaries. Their credit reports reflect this pattern. The only sure solution to this problem is for American households to become more educated and thus more competitive in the work force and to just say "no" to the materialistic mentality. We need to look at ourselves and our values and ask, ‘do we really need to live in homes that are over 3,000 square feet?’ All that said, I do think the American dream is still achievable.
Cindy Lomen, Alta Loma, California

American Dream Defined:
1. Own (w/ mortgage) single family home in nice neighborhood
2. Own one car for each adult member of the family
3. Make enough money to make ends meet w/ a little extra for recreation
Is it attainable anymore? With a college degree in a productive major (e.g., engineering, finance, marketing, hard sciences), yes. Without such a degree, not likely.
Adam White, Santa Clarita, California
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