According to a new poll from Gallup, only 52% of Americans now say the country has plenty of economic opportunity, down from 57% in 2011 and a dramatic decrease from 81% in 1998.
Additionally, many more Americans today believe the U.S. economic system is “unfair”:
American attitudes about this aspect of U.S. society have changed significantly over the past decade and a half. Today, just half say “the economic system in the United States is basically fair, since all Americans have an equal opportunity to succeed,” while 44% instead see it as basically unfair, and lacking such opportunity. This is a significant change of attitudes compared with the economically heady and dot-com boom year of 1998, when nearly seven in 10 Americans saw the economic system as fair.
Belief that the U.S. economy is rooted in fairness is strongly tied to partisan identification. Currently, Republicans are most likely to see the economy as basically fair, while Democrats are the least likely. Although all partisan groups are less likely now than in 1998 to say the economy is fair, Democrats are slightly more likely to have lost faith, with a 20-percentage-point drop, compared with losses of 16 points among independents and 14 points among Republicans.
Both lower-income Americans making less than $36,000 a year and higher-income Americans making at least $90,000 are significantly less likely than those in the middle-income group to say the economic system is fair. Thus, despite the focus on the middle class’ inability to get ahead today, those in the middle of the income spectrum are actually the most positive about equal opportunity to succeed.