WASHINGTON, April 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- While the American middle class is still optimistic about getting ahead, they have become increasingly fearful that they may fall behind, according to poll results released today by The Allstate Corporation (NYSE: ALL) and National Journal. [Watch a live briefing on the latest Heartland Monitor Poll TODAY at 9am ET at http://www.nationaljournal.com/events.] The 16th quarterly Allstate-National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll focuses on the American middle class and seeks to uncover important insights about how this cornerstone economic group perceives the future. The poll asks Americans to define what it means to be part of the middle class, based on income, financial security, education and lifestyle. Unsurprisingly, many Americans (46 percent) identify as middle class and almost all Americans (85 percent) consider themselves a part of an expanded definition of being middle class that includes upper middle class (12 percent), and lower middle class (26 percent). The most recent Heartland Monitor Poll also identifies renewed concern about the country's recovery and an increase in skepticism toward major political and business institutions. Specifically, the mood of the country has worsened with only 29 percent of respondents believing the U.S. is headed in the "right direction," a considerable decline from a three-year high of 41 percent recorded in November 2012. Democrats' optimism has decreased by 23 points to 54 percent in the most recent data, while just 32 percent of the middle class feel the country is headed in the right direction. "Over the last four years, Americans' views in this poll have been consistently right about the economy. Today, they are sounding the alarm bell that the economy is not on track for sustainable growth. More affordable college education, job creation and stability are seen as key priorities," said Thomas J. Wilson, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Allstate. "The blame is spread wide and far, from politicians to business leaders. Americans are crying out for leaders to work together to create a path to economic prosperity. We should listen and act now." Heartland Monitor XVI reveals that public opinion is narrowly balanced between hopes of economic improvement and fears about falling behind. Nearly three-in-five middle class Americans (59 percent) say they are concerned about falling out of their economic class. The attributes Americans have historically seen as safeguards for middle class families such as educational attainment and responsible financial planning are now considered by many to be unrealistic or only attainable by the upper class. At the same time, Americans remain optimistic about the potential to move up the economic ladder at some point in the future; this is especially true among Millennials, African Americans and Hispanics, whom view economic opportunity as being on the horizon.