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2016 has been a huge year for the world, and it’s pretty easy to get caught up in its universal drama. New research conducted by the Pew Research Center takes a “bigger-picture” perspective: they asked the American public to name ten historical events which had the biggest impact on the country, in the public’s lifetime. Here’s what they said:
A huge 76% of the public pointed to the September 11 attacks in their answer. In fact, all generations who answered the survey said that it was the most defining historical event of their lifetimes.
The demographic data around this event is highly interesting. Overall, the Obama election was the second most frequently named significant event in the entire survey. However, it places first for African Americans, and second for whites answering the survey.
Across numerous regions of the United States, the Tech Revolution is mentioned the least by respondents in the South (fifth place), but features in third place for respondents from the West and Northeast.
The JFK assassination was named by all socio-economic groups as one of the most defining moment in post-modern American history.
Both Democrats and Republicans viewed the Vietnam War as a significant historical event, but Republicans mentioned it more frequently (23%) compared to Democrats (18%).
While 19% of the people surveyed named the country’s response to the September 11 attacks as a source of pride, the subsequent Iraq/Afghanistan war was placed third in the most “disappointing” moments.
The moon landing came third in the ranking of moments that made Americans proud of their country. Apollo 11 landed on the moon on 20 July 1969.
Gen Xers (born 1965-1980) mentioned the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall more prominently than other generations, as one of the most defining events in their lifetimes.
The US Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage is seen by 19% of millennials as an impactful event, but it was mentioned much less frequently by other generations – only 7% of Baby Boomers named it in the survey.
The Orlando shooting ranks very high amongst Hispanics (19%) – much higher than for any other demographic group. The context of the event could help explain: the vast majority of the murder victims were Latino.
The war which took place during the George WH Bush administration is one of the few events named more often by men than women.
We can only speculate, but there’s a fair chance that the Trump election could well feature on this list next year.