On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed legislation to designate June 19 — also known as Juneteenth — a national holiday.
Most Americans (57%) support making Juneteenth, the commemoration of the last enslaved people learning they were free (two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation), a national holiday. One-quarter of the public (26%) is opposed, according to the latest Economist/YouGov poll.
The Senate passed the bill that declared Juneteenth a federal holiday unanimously early in the week, and there were only 14 Republican votes against it in the House of Representatives on Wednesday. Republicans nationwide, however, were not in favor. The poll was conducted before the bipartisan Congressional action and signing by Biden.
Half of Republicans (52%) oppose making Juneteenth a national holiday, while 27% support it. Four in five Democrats (81%) support it, as do 56% of Independents. That support includes many who hadn’t been aware beforehand what Juneteenth was. By 40% to 28%, those who are not familiar with Juneteenth support the creation of a new federal holiday.
Three-quarters of Black Americans (76%) support it, compared to three in five Hispanic Americans (62%). Half of white Americans (51%) are in favor of the new national holiday, while one-third (32%) are opposed.
Since 1980, Juneteenth has been a state holiday in Texas, the place where Union troops announced the Emancipation to the only enslaved people who had not been given the news. Today, many Americans are still to be educated about the meaning and origin of Juneteenth.
Black Americans (44%) are more likely than white Americans (21%) to have heard “a lot” about it. Three in five Black Americans (61%) who have heard about Juneteenth say they learned about Juneteenth “many years ago”. That’s twice the share of white Americans (30%) and Hispanic Americans (25%) who say this.
Even among those who say they know what Juneteenth is, there is confusion about what it marks. Many confuse the day the news reached Texas with the signing of the Emancipation (that was in January 1863). Others link it to the 1921 Tulsa Oklahoma Race Massacre, where a white mob destroyed over 1,000 homes and businesses and killed several hundred people in a part of Greenwood, a town known as the Black Wall Street. The 100th anniversary of the Massacre was commemorated this year on May 31, so it was fresh in people’s minds.
Americans are loath to trade in any existing holiday to celebrate Juneteenth. Three in five (60%) would give up none of the other federal holidays or aren’t sure what to give up. Losing Columbus Day gets the most support: 27% would trade it in for Juneteenth.
Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 US Adult Citizens interviewed online between June 13 - 15, 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 3.0% for the overall sample.