Do Americans believe hard work still matters?

To Fendley, this sense of drive and purpose, as well as an effective high-school education, and basic life skills, like balancing a checkbook, are the necessary ingredients for a successful life in America.

Those with right-leaning political beliefs were the most likely to think college unnecessary. When it came to income, the middle classes did not think college was necessary, while the poorest and the wealthiest respondents still thought it did. Results to this question also varied according to race: 60 percent of Hispanics still think college is necessary; compared with 51 percent of blacks and 44 percent of whites.

Like views on education, attitudes about homeownership, too, skewed towards pessimism. A majority of those polled believe that homeowners have taken on too much debt, and now cannot afford to pay their mortgages, leading to foreclosures and instability in their communities. That may be why most respondents felt negatively about purchasing a home, despite the fact they considered it an achievable goal.

Americans were the most pessimistic about the prospects of becoming wealthy—nearly 75 percent did not think it was achievable for people like them.