Know the reason the US celebrates Memorial Day? More than half of Americans have no clue

A new study conducted by OnePoll on behalf of University of Phoenix tested Americans on their knowledge of Memorial Day. (Photo by Shari Sirotnak on Unsplash)

Less than half of Americans know the true meaning behind Memorial Day, according to a new survey.

The survey of 2,000 Americans revealed just 43% were aware it’s a holiday honoring those who died in service while in the U.S. Armed Forces.

Twenty-eight percent mistakenly believed Memorial Day was a holiday honoring all military veterans who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces — which is actually Veterans Day.

It was revealed to be a common mistake: A third of respondents (36%) admitted to being unsure of the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day.

Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of University of Phoenix, the survey tested Americans on their knowledge of the upcoming holiday, which, this year, falls on Monday, May 25.

That’s news to some respondents: The survey found less than half (46%) of respondents knew Memorial Day is celebrated on the last Monday of May.

The most common incorrect answer? A fifth (21%) believed Memorial Day falls on the last Sunday of May.

A 2019 survey by the university asked respondents some of the same questions and revealed a similar level of confusion. Last year, 55% correctly identified the purpose of Memorial Day, but a similar number (27%) confused Memorial Day with Veterans Day.

This year’s survey expanded on those findings — and revealed respondents were uninformed about more than just the meaning of the holiday.

When asked about the Moment of Remembrance, a moment wherein Americans are asked to pause for a duration of one minute to remember those who have died in U.S. military service, half of those polled hadn’t heard of it.

But a third of respondents (35%) were able to select the correct time for when it takes place — 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day.

Half of Americans polled had also not heard the term “Gold Star family” — which is a family who has lost a loved one in military service.

Once explained, 55% of respondents said they planned to do something kind for a Gold Star family this Memorial Day.

Even though there’s some confusion about the holiday, 83% of Americans believe it’s important to do something to commemorate Memorial Day.

Eighty-seven percent of respondents said we should be doing more to honor both living veterans and those who died serving. And the survey found 76% believe Memorial Day should transcend politics.

While 79% of respondents said their plans for Memorial Day will be different as a result of the current travel restrictions, 78% said they have an opportunity to be more reflective this year.


  • Fly a flag 43%
  • Leave a flag or flowers on grave of deceased U.S. Armed Forces member 30%
  • Attend a local ceremony or patriotic event 30%
  • Fly a flag at half-mast 29%
  • Visit a military monument or war memorial monument 27%
  • Educate my children about the meaning of Memorial Day 25%
  • Wear a Memorial Day button 24%
  • Aid a family who lost someone serving in the U.S. Armed Forces 22%
  • Educate myself about the meaning of Memorial Day 22%
GIF via GoPop


  • An in-person “thank you” 48%
  • A text or email 35%
  • A social media post 35%
  • A handwritten note 29%
  • A phone call 29%
  • A video call 27%

>> Download the video & infographic for this research story <<
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