Whither the Fourth?

Independence Day is almost upon us, but it appears about half of Americans couldn’t care less about the real reason for the celebration. The results of a new survey from Zogby are disappointing – albeit not terribly surprising – and a bit enlightening as well.

The pollster asked 1,884 American adults what the #1 reason for celebrating the coming holiday is (a holiday that just happens to be named Independence Day):

Just 48% of those surveyed say that they specifically mark the Fourth of July as a time to celebrate America’s independence. Another 33% say they see the holiday as an opportunity to spend time with family and friends, while much smaller percentages look at the Fourth as just a day off from work (6%), or as a break from the routine to allow some summer travel (2%).

Can’t figure out what the other 11% were thinking, but “the chance to relive childhood pyromaniac tendencies” didn’t appear anywhere in the story. The breakdown was the most interesting feature, and perhaps the latest exhibit in the Red State-Blue State phenomenon:

When it comes to celebrating America’s independence, there is a huge division down party lines, the poll shows. Sixty-five percent of Republicans say they use the Fourth for that purpose, while just 30% of Democrats say the same. Almost half (48%) of independents agree.

Among men, 55% said they celebrate the nation’s independence on the Fourth, compared to 42% of women. Patriotism appears to generally increase with age. While 55% of those age 65 and older specifically celebrate national independence, just 40% of 18-29 year-olds agreed. There was some small differences depending on geography – those living in the West (53%), South (50%), and Central/Great Lakes (50%) areas celebrate independence more than those in the East (40%), while those in rural areas (56%) and small cities (51%) do so more than large city residents (47%) and suburbanites (43%).

And yet, true to our great heritage, Americans remain stubborn defenders of tradition, even if many of them don’t seem to care much about the tradition itself:

Although they may not be celebrating the true meaning of Independence Day, Americans are adamant about keeping the holiday on the Fourth of July, regardless of what day of the week it may fall. Seventy-seven percent say they would not favor moving the holiday to the first Monday of the month to simplify time off from work, mirroring the treatment of several other holidays. And 80% say that celebrating the Fourth of July on a different day would diminish its meaning.

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