WASHINGTON – March 18, 2011 – Despite a historic real estate market upheaval that sent foreclosure rates skyrocketing and home values plummeting, Americans still have a deep attachment to homeownership. Furthermore, they consider homeownership an integral part of an American Dream in which they still believe, according to poll results announced today by The Allstate Corporation and National Journal.
The eighth quarterly Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll revealed that nearly nine out of 10 homeowners say they would buy their homes again. That percentage held true even among homeowners who said their home values had declined. Seven of 10 Americans say they would advise a friend or family member to buy a home as a long-term asset. However, while homeownership is perceived as a good personal decision, there is much greater uncertainty about whether expanding homeownership should be a government priority.
Although only 35% of respondents expect their personal financial situations to improve over the next year, three-fourths of those surveyed said it is still possible for people like them to achieve the American Dream, which the poll defined as the ability to advance as far as their talents will take them and live better than their parents did. A total of 59% said they currently are living the American Dream. Respondents identified owning your own home as one of the most critical parts of the American Dream, second only to raising a family.
“Owning a home continues to be the bedrock of the American Dream – even as incomes are down, jobs are scarce and families struggle to make ends meet,” said Thomas J. Wilson, Allstate chairman, president and chief executive officer. “Homeownership is viewed positively by the vast majority of Americans as both a place to raise a family and a sound investment. As a result, financial institutions and the government must work together to ensure that those who can afford their homes stay in them and this opportunity remains a viable alternative for all Americans.”
Despite their positive statements about owning a home, only 42% of those polled said that government’s push to expand homeownership created more stable communities, while 51% said these policies made communities less stable because it “encouraged people to take on too much debt” and led to foreclosures. Those surveyed split exactly in half – 46% on each side – on the broad question of whether Washington should continue or scale back its efforts to promote homeownership through policies such as tax incentives for first-time buyers and the mortgage interest deduction.
“Homeownership retains a powerful, almost tidal, grip on the American imagination,” said Ronald Brownstein, editorial director of National Journal Group. “Even the economic experiences of the last several years don’t seem to have dimmed the yearning for ownership. But we do see that the public is much more ambivalent about whether the nation’s focus on expanding homeownership is a good thing for the country overall.”
Key findings from the eighth Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll include:
1) Americans still believe in homeownership as a sound investment. A solid majority (70%) of Americans would advise a family member or close friends to buy a home to build long-term assets.
* Just 27% disagree with this statement and say homeownership is too risky. This measure is essentially unchanged since the first Heartland survey in April 2009.
* Young Americans (aged 18-29) are less convinced, with 49% who agree that homeownership is a sound investment and 49% who say it is too risky.
* Asked to name the best investment, 24% of Americans say “buying a home,” which ranks behind “investing in retirement savings” (38%), but ahead of “saving money in the bank” (20%), and “investing in the stock market” (6%).
* Most Americans (63%) believe that the current housing crisis is temporary and will improve over the next several years.
* Surprisingly, 58% of those who believe the housing crisis will remain a serious problem would still recommend buying a home.
2) Most Americans (59%) say they are living the American Dream.
* Those most likely to disagree include groups that typically have less of a safety net in a struggling economy: low-income households (51% disagree), those with a high-school education or less (43%), African-Americans (46%), and single mothers (68%).
* Three-quarters of Americans believe the American Dream is still achievable for people like them.
* 58% of Americans believe that the ability to achieve the American Dream is affected more by their own skills and hard work than by the state of the economy. This belief in hard work cuts across every demographic and socioeconomic subgroup.
For more results or to download the poll, go here.
The poll was conducted March 4-8, 2011, among 800 adults via landline and 200 adults via cell phone.
Copyright © 2011 Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll.