We hear it all the time: Americans are more divided than ever, or at least since the Civil War.
But the solar eclipse on Aug. 21 brought the United States together in greater numbers than most any national event in recent memory, according to a study released Tuesday by the University of Michigan. It estimated that 88 percent of American adults — about 215 million people — watched the solar eclipse, either in person or electronically.
That’s nearly twice the number of people that watched the Super Bowl last year. It’s almost 30 percent more Americans than participated in the presidential election last year.
If the eclipse had been a television program, it would have received the most viewers of any in American history; the audience for the cosmic event was almost 18 times as large as that of the “Game of Thrones” finale a week later.
“This level of public interest and engagement with a science-oriented event is unparalleled,” said Jon Miller, director of the International Center for the Advancement of Scientific Literacy at the university’s institute for social research, in a statement.
The number of viewers represents a greater percentage of Americans than those that brush their teeth daily, and more than double the number that floss daily, according to estimates from a 2014 survey.
The study was conducted under a cooperative agreement with NASA. A follow-up survey is planned for October and November to see whether the viewing inspired people to seek out more information about astronomical occurrences.