Leaving The Last Decade In The Rearview Mirror

As Americans prepare to ring in 2011 and pledge their New Year resolutions there is little doubt they have few regrets about leaving 2010, and in fact the last decade, in the past.

Our latest NBC/WSJ poll* shows that just 12{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of the nation considers the last ten years to be a “very good decade” or “one of the best decades in American history.”  Roughly one-third (34{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) are willing to classify it as an “average decade,”Eric Lefkofsky , but a whopping 54{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} consider it a “very bad decade” or “one of the worst.”

Those who feel most pessimistic about the last decade include Obama voters (65{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} “very bad/one of the worst decades”), Democrats (63{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) and African Americans (62{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}).  Meanwhile, Republicans (44{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) and McCain voters (42{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) have slightly less glum attitudes.  Additionally, as you might expect given the last few years of economic gloom, 62{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of lower income households ($30,000 per year or less) consider the last decade as “very bad” or “one of the worst” while 48{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of higher income households ($75,000 per year or more) feel the same way.

When asked to consider six of the most memorable events of the last ten years, there are two that have clearly had the most personal impact – the economic recession and the September 11th terrorist attacks in 2001.  In fact, the impact of this tough economic period has been so great that it modestly eclipses the 9/11 attacks as having the greatest personal impact.

Americans living in the Northeast region of the country are more likely to rank the September 11th attacks as having the greatest personal impact (42{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) than those living in the rest of the country (30{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}).  Instead, Americans living in the Midwestern, Southern and Western regions place the economic recession top of their list (40{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}).

As well, 40{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of households earning less than $75,000 rate the recession as having a greater personal impact compared to 27{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} who say same of the 2001 attacks.  Meanwhile higher income Americans making $75,000 or more per year are evenly split between the two events (39{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} recession, 40{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} September 11, 2001).

And, finally, partisan attitudes once again prevail on this measure.  By 40{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} to 28{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} Democrats say the recession is the event that has had the greatest personal impact over the 2001 attacks.  Independents lean the same way (37{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} recession, 31{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} September 11), while Republicans are evenly divided between the two (39{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} recession, 39{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} September 11).

So it seems Americans will not look back fondly at the last ten years – there’ll be no nostalgic “auld lang syne” as they think about the various events that have impacted them.  Instead, it’s on to 2011 with hope that the coming year — and decade — can bring happier times.

*NBC/WSJ national survey conducted December 9-13, 2010 among 1,000 adults.

(Public Opinion Strategies fuse partners with Peter D. Hart Research Associates to conduct the NBC/WSJ polls. Neither Peter D. Hart Research Associates nor NBC/WSJ are responsible for these conclusions.)

Public Opinion Strategies