Just When Was America Great? – The Atlantic

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But it’s worth a closer look. Using a slice of the raw survey data, I ran a multiple linear regression analysis, which attempts to calculate how much a collection of independent factors influences an outcome. In this case, the outcome was an individual’s pick for America’s Greatest Year; the factors were their age, their race, their education level, their gender, and their political party. (I threw out any response that named a date before 1930 as America’s best; very few people, save historians, are truly nostalgic for the 19th century, and these outliers skewed the sample.)

The result? It seems age does play a role in determining when a person thinks America peaked. For every 10 years a respondent’s age increased, their average America-Was-Greatest date dropped by three years. But race and party matter, too. Being a Democrat gave respondents an average bump of five years in their favorite dates, compared to Republicans; being black raised the average by more than eight years.

That said, the correlation is weak. Only 15 percent of the variability among the 2,000-odd favorite-year responses can be explained by these five demographic factors, which is laughably low by statistical standards.

Part of this might be due to a particularly tortured generation: The late Baby Boomers, or people born in the 1960s. While it’s not uncommon to think the U.S. is going down the hole—a third of registered voters think the country’s best days are in the past, according to the Morning Consult survey—the late Boomers are particularly misanthropic. Just over 38 percent say America’s best years are behind it, and only 41 percent think things will get better, the lowest spread of any generation (and tied with people born in the 1940s, like Donald Trump). What’s more, they absolutely hate the present: About half say things are worse today than they were in 2000, or even 2010, tracking closely with other Baby Boomers but no one else.

This population appears particularly friendly to Trump. Around 70 percent of Republican voters aged 50-65 recently reported feeling enthusiasm or satisfaction about a Trump nomination. And while it’s hard to pin down exactly the era Trump wants to restore, his comments on manufacturing, China and Japan would seem to show a preference for the 1980s—which just happens to be the late Baby Boomers’ favorite decade.

When was America greatest? It’s a subjective question, and the data suggests the answer is more personal than generational. But Trump’s slogan seems to have particular resonance with one slice of the population, even as it speaks to the more general nostalgia.

Just When Was America Great? – The Atlantic