Sunday, 16 Dec 2018

The data is clear: nobody actually fights about politics at Thanksgiving dinner

Well, almost nobody.

Don’t believe what you read: Nobody actually argues about politics at Thanksgiving.

Okay, not nobody; never speak in absolutes. Almost nobody, though. The percentage of Americans who think it’s very likely or somewhat likely that they’ll get into an argument about politics at Thanksgiving dinner is vanishingly small compared to the share who think it’s unlikely. All those articles you see with advice on how to talk to your wacky uncle about Trump over turkey and stuffing (a genre Vox has dabbled in too) don’t actually seem to have much of an audience.

HuffPost’s Ariel Edwards-Levy had the poll numbers last year and shared them again this week. This chart speaks for itself:

Maybe it’s no surprise that people who expected to share their pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes with only Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump supporters didn’t anticipate a fight over building the wall, locking her up, or relitigating the 2016 Democratic primary.

But the real tell is the middle column, among people who expected to have both Clinton and Trump supporters giving thanks together:

  • 42 percent of those people still thought it was “not at all likely” there would be a fight over politics at Thanksgiving dinner.
  • 33 percent thought it was “not very likely.”
  • 20 percent thought it was “somewhat likely” — admittedly higher than dinners with only Clinton or Trump voters, but still just a one-in-five chance.
  • And only 3 percent of people in these houses divided thought it was “very likely” somebody would end shouting at Uncle Jerry because he refuses to take off his MAGA hat for dinner or keeps insisting Bernie would have won.

These numbers are from 2017, so, sure, I guess it is possible more people will decide to rub Jerry’s face in the midterms results. But barring a historic rise in the tears-to-gravy quotient, Edwards-Levy summarized the takeaway here better than I ever could:

In our deeply polarized times, more than 60 percent of Americans already say the future of the country is a significant stress in their lives. Thanksgiving is, as Deadspin’s David Roth put it, maybe the last good holiday we have left. It’s food, family and friends, an overhyped parade, and football or dog shows, depending on your taste.

The internet isn’t real life. Twitter isn’t real life. Politics is important — take a look around this website for a dozen reasons why — but so are your loved ones. You can always stay home if the differences are truly irreconciliable.

Otherwise, maybe just bite your tongue and pass the Brussels sprouts. Everybody else is.