Even as thousands of new illegal immigrants flood over the border, more Americans than ever doubt whether it is possible for most people in this country to escape being poor.


A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of 1,000 American adults finds that 44 percent still believe it is possible for just about anyone in the United States to work their way out of poverty. That’s consistent with findings since April of last year but down from the high 40s and low 50s for several years prior to that.


However, 40 percent now think it is not possible for just about anyone to escape poverty, up just two points from 38 percent in March but the highest finding in regular surveying since January 2009 just after the Wall Street meltdown. Sixteen percent = more are not sure.


Fifty-two percent say it is possible for anyone who really wants to work to find a job. Thirty-seven percent disagree, while 11 percent are undecided. This is generally in line with attitudes for the past couple years.


But only 27 percent think it is still possible for just about anyone in America to work hard and get rich. More than twice as many (58 percent) believe that is no longer possible. That’s the highest level of pessimism since the spring of last year and just one point short of the all-time high of 59 percent reached in March 2013. Fifteen percent (are not sure.


Fifty-one percent of those polled still think most people get rich by working hard, but that’s the lowest level of belief in surveys since the beginning of 2013. Thirty percent now believe most rich people inherit their wealth, while 10 percent think they just get rich by being lucky.


With these views of the economy, it’s no wonder that only 18 percent think today’s children will be better off than their parents, a goal that U.S. society used to routinely believe in for generations. Sixty-two percent say the next generation will not be better off. Twenty percent are undecided. These views have changed little since the meltdown.