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Reimagining The American Dream: Views from Young Americans

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Keys to the reimagined American Dream

Reimagining the American Dream: Views From Young Americans

Young Americans Name Happiness, Freedom, and Meaningful Personal Relationships as the Core of a Reimagined American Dream

As our country heads into another presidential election year, candidates are evoking the power of the American Dream in their efforts to connect with voters. The Sine Institute's Reimagining the American Dream: Views From Young Americans poll asks the important question of what the American Dream actually means for young Americans, who are trying to sort through the churning dynamics shaping their lives, including: spiraling technological innovation, major economic transitions, changing attitudes about social justice, and what constitutes a “good” or “successful” life after a devastating global pandemic with profound impacts on their physical and mental health, the extent of which is still unknown.

This research was an investment in understanding young Americans’ goals for the future as well as the barriers and support they experience as they pursue those goals, and the data is important information for those involved in setting policy and shaping institutions that closely intersect with young Americans’ lives. The data uncovers unique insight on what the American Dream means for young people today - and what leaders need to know - in order to support today’s youth in turning their dreams into reality.

The Sine Institute worked with an advisory group of nine AU graduate and undergraduate students from across the university to help design the poll, formulate its questions, and provide feedback on the survey methodology and results. The student committee also offered suggestions for further research topics.

Full Results

Read the full results of the Reimagining the American Dream: Views From Young Americans poll.

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Introduction and Methodology

This is the second annual Sine Institute survey focused on understanding young Americans’ (ages 18-34) perspectives on politics, community engagement, and public service. The poll takes on the challenging and important topic of what the American Dream means for young people today.

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The American Experience

Young Americans remain steadfastly optimistic about their own lives and futures, while at the same time acknowledging mental health struggles such as depression and anxiety.

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The Reimagined American Dream

The reimagined American Dream that young Americans describe reflects both continuity and change. The changing social conditions they are witnessing and their own life experiences profoundly shape their goals for their future.

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Supports and Barriers to the Amerian Dream

Young Americans are acutely aware of the obstacles and opportunities for support they experience as they pursue their American Dream. The influential factors they identify are a mix of individual traits, life circumstances, and macro-level, social-political-economic forces beyond their control. 

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Path to the American Dream - Politics and Leadership

Young Americans display remarkable sincerity and commitment when they describe their motivation to engage politically and cite the influence of local leaders such as teachers on their lives.

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Consequences for the 2024 Election

While a majority of young Americans say the outcome of the 2024 presidential election will make a big difference in their own lives, a significant plurality say it won’t.

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Background on the Project

This poll is an initiative of the Sine Institute of Policy and Politics at American University in partnership with Millenial Action Project and Close Up Foundation. The poll was conducted by Generation Lab between July 21 and August 11, 2023.

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For full crosstabs, please contact the Sine Institute at

Meet Our Partners

Close Up Washington DC
Close Up Foundation
Founded in 1971, Close Up Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, civic education organization that believes a strong democracy requires active, informed participation by all citizens. Close Up seeks to serve young people from all communities and all backgrounds, regardless of race, religion, gender, socioeconomic level, or academic standing. For over 50 years, we have partnered with schools nationwide to serve more than one million students and educators through experiential programs in our nation’s capital and in local communities, virtual programs, professional development, and curriculum and resource design. Close Up Washington DC’s issue-centric, nonpartisan curriculum gives participants a deeper understanding of history, government institutions, current issues, and the role of citizens.

The Generation Lab

Generation Lab
Generation Lab is a data intelligence company that translate youth views and behavior for media, academia, businesses, government, and the American public. Generation Lab uses proprietary methods that streamline the polling process for respondents, maintain exceptional data integrity, and enhance data collection. Generation Lab specializes in studying young people and the trends that shape the future and works to “pursue youth truth” for clients and the American public. Generation Lab’s work has been featured in such media outlets as AXIOS, PBS, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and others.

Millenial Action Project

Millennial Action Project
The Millennial Action Project is an organization dedicated to renewing American democracy. In collaboration with dozens of Millennial leaders across the country, and with the generous support of visionary philanthropists, the Millennial Action Project was formed and officially launched in 2013. The Millennial Action Project works directly with our nation’s leading young policymakers on both a national and state level to bridge the partisan divide and lead a new era of collaborative governance. As a national, nonpartisan nonprofit dedicated to activating millennial and Gen Z policymakers, MAP gives our nation’s young leaders the resources and support to develop and pass innovative policy solutions — and forge productive partnerships on the issues affecting the youngest generations of Americans.

American Dream Poll Partner and Student Reactions

AU School of Communications Excutive in Residence Molly O'Rourke, Generation Lab co-founder Cyrus Beschloss, and Sine Institute Student Advisors react to the results of the Sine Institute's "Reimagining the American Dream: Views from Young Americans" poll.