Americans agree the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were the defining moment of their lifetime, but they’re at odds over the country’s most disappointing moment.
Roughly three-quarters or 76 percent of the public named the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Virginia as the No. 1 historic event in their lifetime with a major effect on the country, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted with A+E Networks’ HISTORY. There was also pride in the country’s response to 9/11, with 19 percent citing the aftermath as the moment they felt most proud of America.
But there was little consensus on America’s worst moment. President Barack Obama’s 2008 election ranked as the second-most significant moment in recent memory, listed by 40 percent of the public. But his election was a source of pride for 14 percent of the country while 11 percent called Obama’s election the biggest disappointment.
At a close second for biggest disappointment: the Republican primary election campaign that led to the nomination of President-elect Donald Trump. That campaign was cited by 10 percent of respondents as the time or event when they felt most disappointed by the country.
The national online survey of 2,025 adults was conducted ahead of the election, June 16 through July 4. Trump clinched the Republican nomination in May.
Nearly half of black Americans said they were proudest of their country after Obama’s election, more than five times the share of whites.
Other than 9/11 and Obama’s election, other significant moments were digital innovations of the tech revolution, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the moon landing, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War, the legalization of gay marriage, the Orlando nightclub shooting and the Gulf War.