Religion and Social Trends

Americans Have Not Forgotten Memorial Day's Purpose

But few plan to honor veterans, and most expect to "stay around the house" Monday

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ – For many Americans, the transition from May to June marks the unofficial start of summer, as the long Memorial Day weekend affords people time to enjoy rest and recreation. Given the shuffle of vacations and days off, it is certainly possible that the true meaning or origin of a holiday such as Memorial Day could be lost – particularly as the number of years since the country was last embroiled in a major war continues to grow.

Do Americans know why we celebrate Memorial Day? Yes they do, according to the most recent Gallup poll. When the public is asked directly to explain in its own words why the holiday is celebrated, two-thirds generally get it right – mentioning those who died in war or honoring veterans, while only 17% of those asked give no response. The remaining 15% mention a war or wars, "remembering" in general, or "honoring all dead."

Specifically, 28% answer the question exactly right by saying the day exists to honor those who died in war. Another 40% of the public believes Memorial Day is set aside for remembering veterans and 6% of Americans believe the day is for honoring all the deceased – answers which are not precisely correct, but which show awareness of the overall purpose of the holiday.

Many Americans Lack Specific Plans for the Holiday Weekend
There may have been a time when Memorial Day would find many Americans at parades or visiting cemeteries, but that time has apparently passed. Although most Americans know the reason for Memorial Day, only three in ten plan to visit a veteran's cemetery or grave Monday, and just 21% expect to attend a Memorial Day parade.

The most frequently mentioned activity for the holiday is "just staying around the house," a passive form of celebration that will be engaged in by 68% of respondents. The second most common activity will be attending a picnic or barbecue, which 55% of Americans said they will be doing.

None of the other possible choices for Memorial Day leisure activities receives more support from the public. Twenty-one percent of the public indicate they will be "going somewhere else as a vacation day," and 9% say they will go to the beach. Fourteen percent of the public say they will try to take advantage of Memorial Day sales and do some shopping.

Almost One-Quarter of Americans Will Work on Memorial Day
Working was one of the options listed in the poll as a possible Memorial Day activity. Almost a quarter (24%) of the public indicate that they will be working on Monday, May 29. Men are slightly more likely than women to say they will be working on this holiday (27% compared to 21%). Also, those with less formal education are somewhat more likely to be working, as 28% of those with a high school education or less say they will be working, compared to 22% of those with a college education and 16% of those with a postgraduate degree.

Survey Methods
The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,032 adults, 18 years and older, conducted May 23-24, 2000. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Next, as you may know, this coming Monday is Memorial Day. Would you happen to know why we celebrate Memorial Day? (open-ended)

 

 

2000 May 23-24

   

Remembering/Honoring veterans

40%

Honor war dead

28

Honoring all dead

6

Remembering past wars

2

Remembering WWII veterans

1

Day of remembrance

1

Remembering Civil War

1

Remembering war heroes

1

Remembering WWI veterans

1

   

Other

2

No opinion

17

 

100%



Here's a list of some things that some people will be doing on Memorial Day, this Monday. For each one please tell me if that is something that you and your family will be doing on Monday, or not. [RANDOM ORDER]

 

 

Yes, will be doing

No, will not be doing

No opinion

       

A. Going to a Memorial Day Parade

%

%

%

       

2000 May 23-24

21

75

4



B. Going to a veteran's cemetery or grave

 

2000 May 23-24

30

68

2



C. Going to the beach

 

2000 May 23-24

9

89

2



D. Going somewhere else as a vacation day

 

2000 May 23-24

21

78

1



E. Working

 

2000 May 23-24

24

75

1



F. Just staying around the house

 

2000 May 23-24

68

30

2



G. Going shopping to take advantage of Memorial Day sales

 

2000 May 23-24

14

84

2



H. Attending a picnic or barbecue

 

2000 May 23-24

55

39

6



Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/2866/americans-forgotten-memorial-days-purpose.aspx Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A +1 202.715.3030