What Americans think about Thanksgiving foods and traditions

Linley SandersSenior Data Journalist
November 18, 2021, 5:45 PM UTC

Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for gratitude and feasts, with people expressing that they are thankful for their family. In recent years, YouGov has conducted polling on everything from the most popular Thanksgiving main dishes and sides to Americans’ favorite Thanksgiving pie and whether politics is served at their tables.

Americans' favorite Thanksgiving dishes

When it comes to the Thanksgiving meal, there are certain classics that Americans want to see at the table. In a 2020 poll, YouGov asked its members to choose the better of two Thanksgiving dishes in a series of head-to-head match-ups. The data revealed that Americans crave a traditional turkey surrounded by starchy sides (looking at you, potatoes, stuffing, and bread).

  • Most popular main dish: Turkey 

  • Most popular potato dish: Mashed Potatoes

  • Most popular non-potato side: Stuffing (or dressing)

  • Most popular non-potato vegetable: Green beans

  • Most popular turkey-alternative: Ham

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The most popular Thanksgiving pie is pumpkin pie

Pass the pumpkin pie — it’s the most popular choice for Americans on Thanksgiving, according to a 2020 YouGov poll. About one-third of Americans (35%) choose pumpkin, followed by pecan pie (16%) and apple pie (11%). One in 10 adults choose sweet potato pie as their pick (10%), and 10% prefer a different type of pie. 

Pumpkin pie only takes the top spot for Thanksgiving, however. A March 2019 poll shows that Americans rank apple pie (25%) above pecan pie (13%) or pumpkin pie (10%).

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Thanksgiving is a holiday of leftovers

Even after Thanksgiving, most Americans will be eating leftovers for at least one day afterwards. A poll conducted in November 2019 shows that 23% of Americans say they expect leftovers to last for one day. About half (47%) anticipate eating Thanksgiving leftovers for two to three days. And 11% of Americans expect the food to last at least four days. 

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Americans leave politics out of Thanksgiving (usually)

Americans are generally not worried about politics (or general arguments) being brought into the Thanksgiving meal. A poll of registered voters conducted just after the 2020 presidential election showed that only 13% of people celebrating with others believed they would “definitely” talk about politics. Two-thirds (67%) of registered voters said they were “not anxious at all” about the notion that politics could come up, and only 17% thought it was likely that their family would have an argument about any topic during the holiday season.One possible reason for this: Americans tend to celebrate Thanksgiving with politically like-minded individuals. About two-thirds of then-Biden voters and then-Trump voters were sharing a Thanksgiving meal with people who voted for the same candidate as they did. If there were to be a political disagreement, however, 62% of registered voters say they are comfortable verbalizing their dissent. 

Among those few registered voters who thought it was likely their family would get in some type of Thanksgiving fight, the most likely argument topics were: politics (49%), the coronavirus (43%), long-standing family tensions (26%), conspiracy theories (24%), or someone’s future plans (22%).

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