BOSTON - Post-recession Americans remain worried,
but are more thrifty and determined, and have redefined the
American Dream to place far more importance on achieving softer
goals - a happy marriage, a healthy retirement and environmentally
responsible living, according to a national poll released
Although the vast majority of Americans said the Great Recession
changed their outlook on life, nearly three quarters of respondents
(74 percent) said they feel they have achieved the American Dream
or are on their way to doing so, according to the poll of 1,009
adults conducted last week for Solomon McCown & Company by
Anderson Robbins Research.
In the poll, 24 percent of Americans reported that their
household had "mostly recovered" from the impact of the recession;
41 percent said they "still have a ways to go;" and 14 percent said
they "might not ever fully recover." But even a majority - 56
percent - of those who feel they might not ever recover said they
have already achieved the American Dream or are on their way to
When asked to rate the importance of eight different aspects of
the American Dream, 83 percent picked "a happy marriage" as very or
extremely important; "a long and healthy retirement" ranked second
with 77 percent; and "living in an environmentally responsible and
sustainable way" ranked third with 72 percent. Home ownership and
helping others also polled strongly; two-thirds said "owning a
home" and "helping others through volunteer work or charitable
giving" are very or extremely important to achieving the American
"Being successful in a high-paying career" ranked dead last,
considered very or extremely important by only 46 percent of those
"We have redefined what success looks like in the aftermath of
the nation's economic hardship and the financial and ethical
scandals that have dominated the past few years," said Ashley McCown,
president of Solomon
McCown & Company, a national strategic communications,
public affairs and crisis management firm. "Economic status and all
the creature comforts it brings are less important in the New
Asked to rank a series of traits they would consider the "most
valuable in today's world," 44 percent chose "honesty," followed by
"work ethic" at 37 percent and "good health" at 35 percent. "Good
looks" ranked last of eight traits with only 4 percent.
A majority of Americans reported feeling more "thrifty" (68
percent), more "determined" (65 percent) but more "worried" (61
percent) today than they were before the recession. More people
also feel less "charitable" and less "lucky" today.
"Our poll finds Americans coming out of the recession largely
united in an increased sense of determination and thriftiness,"
said Chris Anderson, co-founder and president of Anderson Robbins Research, a
national polling and market research company. "But at the same time
the recession left some deep scars that many households fear may be
Six in ten Americans believe the next generation will have fewer
opportunities to achieve the American Dream, even as the elements
of the Dream have shifted.
Other key findings include:
- College or Cash: Asked which would be "a better
start in life for most young people today," 71 percent chose "a
high quality college education" over $250,000 in cash.
- Children or Empty Nest: Only 54 percent ranked "having
children" as very or extremely important to achieving the American
Dream. Married Americans with no children at home were the most
likely to feel they have achieved the American Dream.
- Money or Time: Asked to choose between "more
time" or "more money," 51 percent said they preferred more money
and 45 percent chose more time. Among respondents ages 18-34, 53
percent favored more time, while 55 percent of those 55 or older
chose more money.
- Fun or Sleep: Asked to choose between "more activity and
excitement" or "more sleep and relaxation," 50 percent said they
preferred more activity and 45 percent chose most rest. Two-thirds
of the respondents in the 18-34 age bracket preferred more
activity, while 53 percent of those 55 or older chose more
- Stronger or Weaker: Americans were evenly split
on how their country will fare in the post-recession world.
Forty-three percent said the recession will "weaken" America's
character and 43 percent said it will "strengthen" it.
There were few regional variations in the polling results. One
noteworthy finding was that respondents in the Northeast ranked
"good health" as the "most valuable" trait in today's world, while
the rest of the nation gave "honesty" their top rating. In the
Northeast, "honesty" ranked third behind "work ethic."
The poll was conducted by phone from April 28 through May 1,
2012 to a sample weighted to match United States adult general
population parameters. The margin of sampling error for the
complete set of weighted data is ±3.1 percentage points.
The poll was released to coincide with Solomon McCown &
Company's "SM& Presents: The New
Normal," an expert panel discussion held on May
16th in Boston to explore how the Great Recession has
changed the way Americans live, work and play, and what success
looks like in the New Normal. The panel was the 17th
in an ongoing series the company has hosted to examine the
communication aspects of topical events.
To download the infographic, click
To watch the movie, click
To download the poll results presentation, click
To download this release, click
To learn more about the event, click here.