Thanksgiving food debates: is canned or fresh cranberry sauce better?

November 24, 2021, 4:00 PM UTC

Gathering round the table for Thanksgiving dinner is a highlight of the holiday. But with such an important ritual comes strong opinions about the best way to do things.

The latest Economist/YouGov poll asked Americans about a handful of Thanksgiving food debates, including the best type of turkey meat, cranberry sauce preferences, and whether marshmallows belong on sweet potatoes.

Americans are split on fresh or canned cranberry sauce

The biggest controversy concerns cranberry sauce. What kind to eat – or whether to eat it at all. One in three do not eat cranberry sauce, a figure higher among those under 45 (mostly Millennials), but much lower among those 65 or older. Four in five (80%) senior citizens like cranberry sauce, just half of those under 45 do.

As for what kind of cranberry sauce to eat, canned or freshly made, it’s a close contest. The convenience of the canned kind is preferred by women; for college graduates, it’s freshly-made that is better. Many other groups are evenly divided.

Light meat or dark meat?

About nine in 10 Americans who celebrate Thanksgiving (91%) say they eat turkey – the staple of the holiday – but disagree on which part of the turkey they like the best. Twice as many Americans say they prefer white meat like turkey breast (39%) to the dark meat of thighs and legs (19%). But nearly a third (31%) like them both.

Should sweet potatoes have marshmallows?

There is a clear preference about what to do with sweet potatoes: no marshmallows, please. And for one in four it’s no sweet potatoes at all, please! About one in five (21%) favor marshmallows on their sweet potatoes, while one-third (32%) do not. One in five (20%) don’t care and will eat both. 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this Economist/YouGov Poll

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 U.S. adult citizens interviewed online between November 14 and November 16, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, and region based on the 2018 American Community Survey, conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, as well as 2016 and 2020 presidential votes (or non-votes). Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all U.S. citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3% for the overall sample. 

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