The American Dream: Rich are fearful for its survival, but poor still believe

Rosey Lee Josie makes $10.65 an hour cooking large vats of macaroni to be sold in supermarkets. She’s worked at the same factory in Cleveland, Ohio for a decade.

The pay frustrates her sometimes. But not enough to put her down. When cnn Money asks if she’s lived the American Dream, she doesn’t hesitate to say a resounding yes.

“Most of my dreams have come true,” says Josie, a grandma in her 60s, with a black belt in karate. She moved to Cleveland from Georgia in 1969 to escape the Jim Crow south and has worked ever since, mostly in food prep.

Josie is proud of her black belt and her children. She’s ready to retire, but she continues to work in order to help her kids and grandkids. Josie plans to vote for Hillary Clinton because of Clinton’s promise to raise the minimum wage.

CNN Money traveled to three key battleground states in September — Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. We spoke to over 80 voters across a wide spectrum and asked them all if they had lived the American Dream. Nearly everyone said yes.

It was an unexpected outflow of optimism in a year when 71% of voters say the economy is rigged, according to a MarketWatch poll this summer.

But when CNN Money asked voters if they thought their kids would fare as well (or better), the responses varied widely, mostly by income.

The poor aspire to the American Dream

Belief in the American Dream was alive and well in minority and low-income communities. It was strongest among voters like Krista Shockey

“I believe I have lived [the dream]. I have had three beautiful children and I own my own home,” she said, dabbing her eyes, over lunch at a diner in Waverly, Ohio, a depressed area about an hour south of Columbus.

“I feel I’m blessed. I really do. I am proud to be living in this country,” said Shockey, a life-long Democrat, who plans to vote for Donald Trump this year.

Shockey embodies the mix of emotions that so many Americans feel right now. She’s angry at politicians and global trade for causing so many jobs to evaporate in her town. But on a personal level, she feels blessed and optimistic.

It’s remarkable, given that her own financial situation isn’t great. Shockey lives on government disability payments after injuring herself years ago.

People like Shockey are mad at “the system,” but they personally want to believe they will survive and thrive, no matter what. That’s especially true among the poor, says Jennifer Silva, an assistant professor of sociology at Bucknell University.

“The American Dream is sacred in our society,” Silva says. It’s almost unpatriotic to say it’s dead, she finds.

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