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Eclipse Seattle
Eclipse watchers turned Aug. 21’s event into a party at Kerry Park in Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood. (GeekWire Photo / Kurt Schlosser)

More than 215 million American adults, representing almost 88 percent of the U.S. population over 18, watched August’s solar eclipse in person and on screens, according to a newly published survey.

That’s nearly twice the size of the TV viewership for recent Super Bowl football championships.

“This level of public interest and engagement with a science-oriented event is unparalleled,” Jon Miller, director of the International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research, said in a news release.

Miller’s preliminary study, conducted in cooperation with NASA, was based on online and phone surveys involving a nationwide, representative sample of 2,221 adults.

Aug. 21’s solar eclipse was visible throughout North America, and observers along a coast-to-coast track stretching from Oregon to South Carolina caught glimpses of the eclipse’s total phase. It was the first coast-to-coast American eclipse since 1918.

The event was widely heralded in advance, and widely watched via television, the internet and smartphones. Miller’s survey suggests that a whopping 61 million people watched the eclipse in real time electronically, perhaps due to the fact that it occurred during traditional working hours on a Monday.

Among the survey’s other findings:

  • About 154 million people watched the eclipse directly, using such aids as eclipse glasses and pinhole viewers.
  • About 20 million traveled out of their home area, usually to witness a higher degree of totality.
  • About a third of the people watching the eclipse directly took photos or video of the event, and half of those people shared their images with others via social media, email, texts or other electronic means.
  • Most people watched the eclipse with family and friends. Only 3 percent were part of a larger organized group.
  • On a zero-to-10 scale, the survey respondents rated the eclipse a 7.6 for enjoyment and 7.0 for its educational value.

A final follow-up survey will be conducted in October and November to assess to what extent viewing the eclipse led viewers to seek additional information about astronomical phenomena.

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