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Fueled by curiosity: one in five Americans will travel to watch the 2017 solar eclipse

Fueled by curiosity: one in five Americans will travel to watch the 2017 solar eclipse

The total solar eclipse starting Monday morning is making Americans very curious. Three out of every 4 intend to watch it, and 1 in 5 will actually travel to view it from a better location

Many people (57%) report being interested in getting more information about space, astronomy, or science thanks to this unique phenomenon. And more than half (52%) say they are very or extremely interested in the eclipse.

These are some of the highlights of a survey we ran between August 8 and 10 using SurveyMonkey Audience, showing that the celestial event is attracting the attention of millions across the country.

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The eclipse starts about 9 am Monday Aug. 21 in Oregon and, according to NASA, it will be visible over the next four hours in fourteen states as the shadow of the moon crosses the country from west to east. “The lunar shadow leaves the United States at 4:09 EDT” from Charleston, South Carolina, the agency says. (If you want to read more, NASA created a special webpage with all the basic info about the eclipse.)

But the totality, the phase when the moon totally obscures the sun and day turns into night on Earth, will pass quickly: Its longest duration will be two minutes and 40 seconds in Illinois. So people are making all sorts of preparations to make sure that they enjoy the eclipse from a great spot:

  • Overall, 76% are planning to view the eclipse and 21% plan to travel to watch it
  • Eight percent, or 1 in 12 Americans, will travel 100 miles or more
  • Only 26% of those traveling expect to pay for a hotel room
  • And most people (almost 8 in 10) did not make any eclipse-related purchases
Chart showing that 78% of people did not make purchases related to the 2017 solar eclipse

This means that on Monday 3 out of every 4 people in the country will witness this natural phenomenon one way or another. And that retailers, restaurants and other businesses along the path of totality should be prepared for the extraordinary influx of customers.

One thing we’re sure of is that no one will struggle to find a conversation topic in the elevator that day…

A wide range of emotions…

Our surveys usually give us a close view at what people all over the country are thinking about a particular event or topic. In this case, we found a wide range of reactions when we asked people if they were making special preparations for the solar eclipse.

Some are seriously pumped…

"I have been looking forward to this for over 10 years!!!"

"Got my car travel ready – oil change, windshield washer fluid refill, wash & clean exterior and interior; reserve space for my dog in kennel for when I am away; purchase and install fresh batteries in my camera – I have a very high-end 35 mm SLR film camera with a motor drive which requires lots of batteries; purchase several 35 mm rolls of color print film; purchase a solar viewing lens filter for my telephoto lens to take photos of the event; lubricate my tripod to ensure that it is working properly; coordinate with my friends in Oregon to stay with them and view the solar eclipse together."

Some are just practical…

"I set an alarm on my phone so I would remember to go outside and see it."

"Using it as a marketing campaign at work."

A few are uninterested…

"I will be at my dentist appointment."

"…if circumstances in my life prevent me from seeing it (...) I am sure it will be posted to YouTube where I can download it."

Some are funny (intentionally or not)…

I have been making no preparations at all for the ending of the worl...I mean the solar eclipse.

...You know it's just an eclipse and not a hurricane, right? I have taught high school Science for over 10 years and, while I am looking forward to viewing the eclipse, I think the media (and especially social media) is starting to get out of hand.

Winging it as always. Hoping the stars align for myself to be able to watch it.

And overall, people are just excited to watch this rare natural phenomenon…

Chart showing that 60% of people don't have any worries about the 2017 solar eclipse

About our study: On August 8 through 10, we used SurveyMonkey Audience to survey a nationally representative sample of 418 people aged 18+ in the United States. The samples were age and gender balanced according to the 2010 U.S. Census.