About half of Americans (51 percent) have plans to watch the eclipse of the sun happening across the United States on Aug. 21, according to a CNN poll conducted by SSRS. That figure climbs to 60 percent among those who live in states touched by the "zone of totality," where the moon will completely block the sun's light in the middle of Monday's solar spectacle.
The survey was conducted in early August. Among those who already had plans in place, most said they were not going to travel for a better view. About four in 10 said their eclipse plans were to stay put, while 8 percent said they had made travel plans to view the "Eclipse of the Century." More who live in totality states plan to make a pilgrimage than in the rest of the country (15 percent vs. 6 percent), perhaps because a shorter distance will bring them a much better payoff.
Although Laurie Doherty and her husband live in Bend, Oregon, only about 30 miles from the zone of totality, they are among those who plan to do some traveling that day to stake out a good spot. They've booked a hotel in nearby Redmond -- closer to totality -- and are aiming to leave there at 6 a.m. to beat the traffic and claim a prime location from which to experience the view.
Doherty is a native of Oregon and remembers vividly the total eclipse that passed over the state in February 1979. She recalled the corona along the edges of the moon, the "black wavy lines" known as shadow bands that appeared in mid-air, and noted that "once the sun began to come back up, the birds began to tweet like it was first thing in the morning, and the roosters crowed."
She says she expects this eclipse to be a very spiritual moment, and is looking forward to sharing it with her husband, who has never seen one before. "There are many, many people coming into town, and this area is not very heavily populated, so we're looking forward to sharing the experience with all of the visitors."
Excitement for the first eclipse to cross the United States in nearly a century is about the same whether Americans live in or out of the zone of totality: 48 percent describe themselves as excited for the event, while about three in 10 say they are uninterested. A scant 4 percent describe themselves as scared of the eclipse.
Excitement is most prominent among the young. Almost six in 10 under age 35 say they're excited for it; that dips to 50 percent among those age 35-50, 44 percent among the 50- to 64-year-old block and just 38 percent among seniors.
Crystal Wooten lives in Aiken County, South Carolina, near the border with Georgia, where they're expecting a near-total eclipse. She and her husband are among those planning to watch, but they're a maybe on travel. With two toddlers, she's afraid the little ones "may not have the discipline not to look at the sun."
If they stay home, she says, "It'll be our own little science day." They'll set up chairs near a sliding door so her children, ages 2 and 1, can watch the shadows change shapes. Wooten, whose husband is retired, said, "Gratefully, it's pretty accessible to us, and since we're home with the kids, we don't have to take off of work or anything."
Some who do have to go to the office or to school may be experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime lunch break.
Eric Meadows will be watching at his office in Indianapolis, where his employer has planned an event for those interested in watching. In their area, about 90 percent of the sun will be blocked, and his employer will be providing glasses. Meadows's children will also be able to watch at their school. "I was going to take the kids out of school and drive to the zone of totality," he said. "But the kids' school system has a whole program planned around it for them."
News about the eclipse seems more prominent in the states where the spectacle will be most spectacular. Those living in zone of totality states were far more apt than those in the rest of the country to say they'd heard a lot about the upcoming eclipse -- 61 percent in the 12 states where a substantial chunk of the state will pass under the moon's full shadow vs. just 28 percent outside of that range. Overall, 35 percent have heard a lot about the upcoming event, 41 percent a little and about a quarter (24 percent) said they'd heard nothing at all at the time the survey was conducted.
Those who've heard a lot about the eclipse are more apt to have made plans to watch it; 62 percent in that group planned to watch versus 45 percent of those who had heard less about it.
And because virtually nothing in this country is safe from political divisions, this celestial event too sparks a divide. Democrats are more apt than independents or Republicans to have made plans to watch the event (57 percent among Democrats vs. 48 percent each among Republicans and independents), and liberals are nearly twice as likely as conservatives to say they're excited about it (63 percent among liberals vs. 34 percent among conservatives).
This CNN Poll was conducted by SSRS by telephone Aug. 3 through Aug. 6 among a random national sample of 1,018 adults. The margin of sampling error for results among the full sample is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points; it is larger for subgroups.