Survey: Do Americans get rich from hard work or good luck?

As a capitalist society (yes, it's true) we need to redouble our effort to introduce younger Americans to the potential of capitalism. Photo: Where is the next Steve Jobs in America? / Photo

SAN DIEGO, April 8, 2013 – Most Americans still believe most rich people earned their money the hard way, by working for it. But there is a significant generation gap developing about personal prosperity.

A new Rasmussen Reports national survey finds that a slim majority of likely U.S. voters believe most people get rich by working hard, 55 percent. Twenty-three percent (23%) believe most of the rich get their money by inheriting it, while 10% think they were lucky.

But those numbers are changing along with the nation’s demographics. Among those under 40, barely a third (34%) believe hard work pays off. Another third of young voters credit inheritance as the key (36%) and 14% believe it’s simply a matter of luck.

Steve Jobs started Apple Computers when he was 21 years old. By the time he was 20 years old, Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook had one million users. And before you think all rich young entrepreneurs made their money from online ventures, David Schottenstein started a custom clothing company, Astor & Black, at age 21. He’s since sold the company and is a multi-millionaire many times over. He’s now involved in a new venture with noted attorney Alan Dershowitz.

Want to meet more of these young business phenoms? See this list of the top entrepreneurs under 30.


Will there be more Jobs, Zuckerbergs, and Schottensteins in America? Yes, because nothing stops the driven personality type of these entrepreneurs. Will there be as many given the growing sense of defeatism among younger Americans? It’s likely few in this category have ever received any education that would introduce them to these success stories. As a society based on capitalism (yes, it’s true) we need to redouble our effort to introduce younger Americans to the potential of capitalism. In the nation’s public schools, this doesn’t seem too likely.

Many members of an older generation of Americans made their fortune due to the opportunity given to them as hard-working immigrants in this country. How ironic that so many are the parents, grandparents and great-grandparents of these discouraged young voters.

Nearly two-thirds of older voters still think hard work is the ticket to striking it rich. They need to take up the responsibility of communicating this work ethic/reward ratio to their children and grandchildren.

The people in the trenches giving it their best shot still strongly believe rich people got rich through hard work. America’s entrepreneurs strongly believe that most rich people got there by hard work. The good news is that their fellow Americans support their efforts. In a previous survey, 86% of likely U.S. Voters believe it’s fair for people who build successful companies to get very rich.

Conservatives overwhelmingly see hard work as the key while moderates are more evenly divided. Upper-income voters credit hard work for financial rewards, but half of lower and middle income Americans agree as well.

Where the split comes is among younger voters and liberal voters. Just one-third (36%) of liberal voters believe hard work is the way people get rich. About half (48%) of those on the political left think the pathway to wealth is either through inheritance or luck. Two-thirds of those under 40 believe wealth comes from luck, inheritance, or a source other than hard work.

Government employees are fairly evenly divided as to whether the rich acquired their wealth through hard work.

On a related topic, 59% of Americans now believe it isn’t possible to work hard and get rich in the U.S. anymore at all. But they still believe that a middle-class lifestyle is within reach; 88% of all American adults think it’s at least somewhat likely a person who works hard and makes good decisions will enjoy a middle-class lifestyle.

Most voters still believe policies that encourage economic growth are more important than those promoting economic fairness, but both objectives are considered important.

Americans overwhelmingly believe that it’s good for the economy when entrepreneurs strike it rich. But only one in four think wealthy Americans pay their fair share of taxes.  

The survey of 1,000 Likely Voters was conducted on April 1-2, 2013 by Rasmussen Reports. The margin of sampling error is +/- 3 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Field work for all Rasmussen Reports surveys is conducted by Pulse Opinion Research, LLC.

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Media Migraine and Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego. Gayle can be reached via Google +


Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News at Washington Times” when quoting from or linking to this story.   


Copyright © 2013 by Falcon Valley Group

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Gayle Falkenthal

Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, MS, APR, is President of the Falcon Valley Group, a San Diego based communications consulting firm. Falkenthal is a veteran award winning broadcast and print journalist, editor, producer, talk host and commentator. She is an instructor at National University in San Diego, and previously taught in the School of Journalism & Media Studies at San Diego State University.


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