Better Worse Same Don't know
Feb 1952 45 33 12 10
July 1962 55 23 12 10
Jan 1979 46 46 3 6
Sept 1989 57 28 12 4Jan 2009 61 31 3 5
The most recent figures sound remarkably favorable considering the economic situation in January 2009. Maybe that's the result of general good feeling around Obama's inauguration; maybe people felt like we'd been through the worst of the recession and the economy would bounce back quickly, or maybe there's a mistake in reporting the numbers. I'll look at that possibility later. But in any case, this decade has a way to go before it can match the 1970s in terms of feeling bad.
Note: the 1989 question was somewhat different--it asked about people in the United States over the next 10 years. I don't think that these differences would have much effect on people's answers, but I can't be sure.