Here's the latest on the reality-check front: Just half of Americans say the American Dream still holds true. Only a quarter would want their child to run for Congress. And for all the shouting, half don't think either political party can do much with the economy.
But at least, most say, George W. Bush isn't running the show.
So finds a new ABC News/Yahoo! News poll, inaugurating a new polling partnership taking a fresh look at some issues in the news. One finding: For all their economic gripes, 52 percent of Americans say they'd rather have President Obama than his predecessor in control of economic policy, vs. 35 percent who'd prefer to have former President Bush in charge.
Still, that's not as bad as it once was for Bush, who fell as low as 23 percent approval in ABC News/Washington Post polling during his presidency, en route to the lowest average second-term ratings in modern polling history.
Other results in this national, random-sample survey, conducted for ABC News and Yahoo! News by Langer Research Associates, shake a stick at all the electioneering under way in the 2010 midterm campaign.
Take the economy, the main election issue by far. Americans roughly divide, 26 percent vs. 23 percent, on whether it would have a better chance of improving if the Republicans take control of Congress or the Democrats keep it. The challenge to both: A plurality, 47 percent, says control of Congress in fact won't have much effect on the economy one way or the other. Take that, partisan policy wonks.
The political field gets an even sharper jab from another result. Just 25 percent of Americans say they'd want a child of theirs to grow up to be a candidate for Congress. An overwhelming 71 percent would rather see their little darlings pick some other line of work. (See separate story.)
And then there's the American Dream -- if you work hard, you'll get ahead. Half of Americans say the old adage still holds true -- perhaps not all that bad, given the economy's condition. But 43 percent say this basic principle of grade-school civics once was true, and isn't any more. And 4 percent, confirmed curmudgeons, say it never was.
It came up just yesterday: "It feels like the American Dream is not attainable to a lot of us," a participant in a town hall meeting with Obama said. "Is the American Dream dead for me?"
It's a question, given these results, that about half the country shares.
GROUPS - Digging beneath the topline numbers reveals some interesting differences among groups across these questions. Here's a summary:
DREAM ON - Better-off Americans are more apt to think the American Dream still lives -- among those with household incomes over $75,000 a year, 57 percent say so; among those with incomes under $25,000 that slides to 46 percent. Similarly the Dream gets more devotees among the college-educated -- no surprise, because education strongly predicts income.
There's a political difference as well -- confidence in the American Dream bottoms out at 46 percent among independents, who tend to be more turned off to the system in general, vs. 58 percent among Democrats and a similar 54 percent among Republicans. And true perhaps to their pioneer spirit, confidence in the American Dream peaks in the West, again at 58 percent, vs. 46 percent in the rust-belt Midwest.