I am at a total loss for words on the state of the current SERPS. I've been penalized awhile, so in a sense I can watch as an outsider. I really don't feel like my personal bias is influencing my judgment.
In my niche, which is a pretty competitive financial niche, there really are very few pages left that consumers should even trust. In the past, even the spammers pretty well tried to have legitimate and safe sites which they invested in for the long term. They might have cheated their way to the top in google's eyes, but they seemed to respect the fact that to stay there for the long term, they needed to be legitimate.
Now it is almost entirely obvious throw away sites or pages that even the owner knows is going to be gone within weeks or a month. There are sooooooo many hijacked pages on edu domains, or off topic domains that were recently purchased for their off-topic link profile. They invest no time or effort into the long term and the consumer is paying the price with fake information etc.
There used to be 2 or 3 great sites surrounded by sites that at least passed the spam smell test. Pretty much no matter what you click on, you would be on a page that the owner valued.
It's so easy to get on here and say the search results are terrible and we all have a bias in how they should look. But with all impartiality, I can honestly say that in my niche.. this is pathetic. I wouldn't want my wife to search in my vertical because I wouldn't trust a single site on the first page.... except the ads.