As the current decade draws to a close, relatively few Americans have positive things to say about it. By roughly two-to-one, more say they have a generally negative (50%) rather than a generally positive (27%) impression of the past 10 years. This stands in stark contrast to the public's recollection of other decades in the past half-century. When asked to look back on the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, positive feelings outweigh negative in all cases.
To be sure, the passage of time may affect the way people view these historical periods. For example, had we asked the public's impression of the 1970s in December of 1979, the negatives may well have outweighed the positives.
By a wide margin, the 9/11 terrorist attacks are seen as the most important event of the decade, with Barack Obama's election as president a distant second – even among his political supporters. And the sour view of the decade is broad-based, with few in any political or demographic group offering positive evaluations.
Happy to put the 2000s behind them, most Americans are optimistic that the 2010s will be better. Nearly six-in-ten (59%) say they think the next decade will be better than the last for the country as a whole, though roughly a third (32%) think things will be worse.
Read the full report Current Decade Rates as Worst in 50 Years on the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press' Web site.