The Opportunity Agenda’s new research memo, “Public Opinion on Opportunity and the American Dream, Homeownership, and Housing,” synthesizes existing public opinion data regarding economic opportunity and homeownership, exploring three areas that are of particular interest to those working on housing policy: (1) perceptions of economic mobility, the American Dream, and the role of institutions; (2) the role that Americans believe homeownership and housing play in creating opportunity; and (3) the politics of housing.

Our analysis finds Americans at a crossroads when it comes to their attitudes about economic opportunity generally and homeownership in particular. They believe in the American Dream and see it as achievable, even as they acknowledge that it may be slipping away. They see financial success as largely the product of hard work, although half now see poverty as caused by circumstances beyond one’s control. Most view government as having a crucial role to play in protecting opportunity and regulating the economy, yet large numbers are skeptical about government’s competence to achieve those tasks.

African Americans and Latinos emerge as more optimistic about their economic future, even as they report greater harm from the recession. They are more likely to perceive discrimination and more likely to see a strong role for government than are non-Hispanic whites.

Americans continue to see homeownership as integral to the American Dream. Most who do not own a home aspire to do so, and Americans across the board see access to a mortgage as a problem. Homeownership is seen as linked to wealth building, to investing for retirement, and to quality of life. The threat of foreclosure looms large, however, with half of the population saying they or someone they know could face foreclosure in the near future.

Support for public interventions to support homeownership and prevent foreclosures is high. Banks and the financial industry are most frequently blamed for the economic and mortgage crisis, and proposals to eliminate mortgage interest deductions or increase down payments meet with opposition.

To read the memo, click on the link below (PDF file)