When it comes to the question of young people having a better life than their parents, older Americans are short on confidence in the American dream.
Just 49 percent of American adults think that today's youth are likely to have a better life than their parents, down from 66 percent in 2008, according to a new USA Today/Gallup poll. And only 45 percent of Americans 55 and older believe that life will be better for today's youth.
Susan MacManus, a political scientist who studies older voters, says that older Americans see younger people with too much personal debt and a government with too much public debt. "Older folks are closer to understanding what debt means in a person's life," she says. "They see personal debt as a huge deterrent to the kind of lifestyle they had."
For a more upbeat outlook, try looking to those young people themselves. Fifty-seven percent of 18- to 34-year-olds believe they'll do better than their parents.
Part of that, as MacManus sees it, is the optimism of youth. But the younger generation, she says, also has a stronger belief that the government will be able to iron out the nation's problems.
Photo: Library of Congress/Jack Delano