Americans will celebrate Memorial Day, but not for the reason it was created

May 28, 2021, 3:45 PM UTC

Monday marks Memorial Day, a federal holiday that honors those who died while serving in the military. Most Americans say they will be doing something over Memorial Day weekend, according to the latest Economist/YouGov poll — even if it’s just staying home and relaxing (32%), seeing family (22%), or having a cookout (21%).

One in five (19%) will watch TV, while 16% will catch up on household chores. Many will spend their day on yard work or landscaping (14%), and one in nine intend to go to church (11%). One in 10 adults will be working (10%) or focusing on home improvements (10%). One in 11 Americans (9%) say they will be watching sports on TV this weekend. 

Americans’ Memorial Day activities don’t tend to focus on the original reason that the holiday was created. After the Civil War, the day was known as Decoration Day, and often marked by visits to the gravesites of the more than half a million American soldiers killed in battles.  

In this year’s poll, just 9% of Americans will visit gravesites while 5% will attend a Memorial Day event or parade. More Americans who live in current military households (where either they serve or a family member  serves) will visit gravesites (13%) or go to an official event (13%).

Related: Two-thirds of Americans consider Memorial Day to be the unofficial start of summer

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov poll 

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between May 22 - 25, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 2.9% for the overall sample.  

Image: Getty