Niagara Gazette

February 14, 2012

Poll favors U.S. in War of 1812 celebrations

By Don Glynn
Niagara Gazette

NIAGARA FALLS — A  bi-national opinion poll measuring attitudes of the War of 1812 shows that Canadians consider the war vital to identifying their nationhood but Americans are more likely to commemorate the 200-year anniversary.

At a cursory glance of the budgets on both sides of the border to mark the bicentennial, it’s hard to imagine the Americans can match the Canadians in observing the milestone.

While the majority of those surveyed agreed the war significantly affected their national identities, more Canadians identified outcomes of the war (77 percent) than Americans (64 percent.)

According to the survey, the most important outcome of the war for Americans was creating the “Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem composed by Francis Scott Key during the Battle of Baltimore (1814). Meanwhile, for Canadians, the most important result was evading the threatened conquest by the U.S. which would have meant sharing politics, government, gun laws and citizenship with their neighbors to the south.     

The poll also revealed that Americans (80 percent) are more likely to consider that commemoration and promotion of their history is significant, compared to Canadians (77 percent). The findings show that both countries agree the bicentennial is important and that their national governments should support it.

Prior to the current survey, Canada had earmarked about $28 million in federal funds towards the War of 1812 bicentennial for various special events including pageants, parades and educational programs. To date, there is no indication the U.S. government will appropriate any funds to mark the milestone.

In New York, two governors — David Paterson and Andrew Cuomo — vetoed legislation that would have established a War of 1812 Commission to provide funding and foster interest in a series of bicentennial activities. State Sen. George D. Maziarz, R-Newfane, said that due to the fiscal situation in Albany, it is doubtful that the state will agree to any such funding.

At the local level, Niagara County awarded a $37,500 grant to Old Fort Niagara, the largest the lawmakers have given to the historic site.

Bob Emerson, executive director of the Old Fort Niagara Association, said the grant represents the county lawmakers’ willingness to dig deep to commemorate what they envision as an opportunity for education and economic development.

Other contributions to the fort in support of 1812 education programs: Grigg Lewis Foundation, $15,000 grant to serve as matching funds for $10,000 in money from the Niagara National Heritage Area; $20,000 from the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission and the Niagara 1812 Legacy Council. Also, more than 160 individual donors have contributed almost $50,000 to the Old Fort Niagara Annual Fund which will help pay for 1812 programming.

Meanwhile, the Niagara Region in Ontario, a body that represents 18 elected representatives from area municipalities (similar to the Niagara County Legislature) established the Niagara 1812 Bicentennial Legacy Council with $200,000 in funding.

The new Ipsos-Reid poll was released Tuesday by the Toronto-based Historica-Dominion Institute, the largest independent organization dedicated to history and citizenship in Canada.

“Canadians and Americans have been debating the War of 1812 for 200 years,” said Jeremy Diamond, director of the institute. “This study reveals the important difference in how we approach our history in Canada and the U.S., but it also shows important agreement on the fact the War of 1812 and its commemoration is important to our history and identity.”

War of 1812 poll

Other findings:

• Nearly 4 in 10 Americans (36 percent) believe there was no significant outcome of the war, or none they can name, compared with Canadians (23 percent).

• Americans (84 percent) are more likely than Canadians (78 percent) to agree it’s important who won the war

• 12 percent of Americans believe the most important outcome of the war was the burning of the White House

• 51 percent of Americans believe the War of Independence was the most important in the formation of the U.S. identity, 25 percent believe it was the Civil War and 21 percent think it was World War II

* Source: Historica-Dominion Institute, Toronto