CRF Blog

Americans Name the 10 Most Significant Historic Events of Their Lifetimes

by Bill Hayes

PewResearchCenter asked Americans to Name the 10 Most Significant Historic Events of Their Lifetimes. In the classroom, you could ask students to go home and make a list with their family and discuss the lists in class.

Shared experiences define what it means to be an American. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks were such a unifying event for modern Americans. Nothing else has come close to being as important or as memorable, according to a new survey conducted by Pew Research Center in association with A+E Networks’ HISTORY.

Roughly three-quarters (76%) of the public include the Sept. 11 terror attacks as one of the 10 events during their lifetime with the greatest impact on the country, according to a national online survey of 2,025 adults conducted June 16-July 4, 2016.

The perceived historic importance of the attacks on New York and the Pentagon, span virtually every traditional demographic divide. Majorities of men and women, Millennials and Baby Boomers, Americans with college degrees and those without a high school diploma rate 9/11 as one of the 10 most historically significant events to occur during their lifetime. And while they seem to agree on little else this election year, the survey finds that more than seven-in-ten Republicans and Democrats name the attacks as one of their top 10 historic events.

The one exception to this pattern is the views of blacks and whites. While the Sept. 11 attacks easily top the list for whites, it shares the top spot with the election of President Barack Obama among blacks. Similarly, the civil rights movement ranks behind only the election of Obama and 9/11 on the list of most significant events for blacks but is absent from the top 10 lifetime events for whites.

Just as striking as the public’s consensus on the impact of 9/11 is the steep drop-off in the proportion of Americans who name other notable events. [more]