American dream lives on, but money's tight

@CNNMoney May 19, 2011: 5:13 AM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Americans are down in the dumps about their personal finances, but still think the American dream is alive and kicking.

Only 32% of Americans consider their own personal finances excellent or good, a nine point decline from last year and 23 points lower than 2007, before the economy tanked, according to a new poll from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

At the same time, 68% of respondents feel they have achieved or will achieve the American dream.

But when asked if their kids will have a higher standard of living than they currently enjoy, only 47% said yes. That's down from 62% in 2009. (How the middle class became the underclass)

The poll -- an update to the Pew Economic Mobility Project -- reveals that Americans from both political parties think the government should play an active role in promoting economic mobility.

Eighty-three percent of Americans support a government role in promoting upward economic mobility. Ninety-one percent of Democrats, 84% of independents and 73% of Republicans say so.

And 58% think government could do even more to keep them from falling behind.

"Americans are looking to policy makers to support their efforts to get ahead," said Erin Currier, project manager for Pew's Economic Mobility Project in a statement.

However, there is a caveat. And it's a big one.

Americans don't think the government is doing a particularly good job of it. Eighty percent say the government is ineffective at helping the poor and middle class. (Danger! Falling middle-class incomes)

Thirty-seven percent say the government is pursuing the wrong polices, while 43% say the government is inefficiently performing the correct policies.

Still, big picture optimism persists.

"Even in the wake of the Great Recession, there is a strong belief that people can work hard and be successful, no matter their starting point, and their optimism remains strong," Currier said. To top of page

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