Family, politics and Thanksgiving

December 03, 2014, 6:16 PM UTC

Less than a third of Americans have serious political disagreements with anyone in their family, and few have ever had Thanksgiving ruined by politics

Thanksgiving weekend gave Americans the opportunity to shop (and one in five in the latest Economist/YouGov Poll say they did), and if they shopped, to see protests by Walmart workers for better working conditions or by those protesting the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown shooting case (very few said their shopping was disrupted by protests).

But the weekend also gave Americans the opportunity to argue about politics with their families around the Thanksgiving Day dinner table. 

Nearly one in three Americans say they have serious political disagreements with someone in their family, but only about a third of those say a political disagreement has hurt their relationship with a close family member.  That’s not necessarily because they argued about it: more say that they have shouted or been shouted at during a political disagreement, but at least for some of them, relations weren’t permanently frayed.   

Who fights more?  Independents, those under 30 and those 65 and older are the most likely to admit they have serious disagreements with close family members.  While liberals and conservatives aren’t much different when it comes to recognizing disagreements – or having a family relationship hurt by one – they are quite different when it comes to raising voices.  Nearly a third of liberals say they have been shouted at – or did the shouting -- in a family argument, compared with only 14% of conservatives.   

As for this year’s holiday celebrants, only 3% say their Thanksgiving was ruined.  Twice as many say that has happened at least once, now or in the past.  Republicans seem more resilient than Democrats or independents (or maybe they are just less likely to argue over turkey): just 1% of Republicans say they have ever had a Thanksgiving ruined by a political argument.  8% of Democrats and 7% of independents have had at least one Thanksgiving ruined by an argument.  This year’s fighting was more likely to happen among younger adults.  6% of those under the age of 45 say this year’s Thanksgiving was ruined by a family fight over politics; just 1% of those 45 and older say that.

Asked whether liberals or conservatives are more abrasive when they talk about politics, four in ten say they are equally abrasive.  Somewhat more give that “honor” to liberals than conservatives – but since there are nearly twice as many conservatives as liberals in this country, that’s not a surprise.  Liberals and conservatives see the other as the harsher.  Moderates give the edge to conservatives.

As for the holiday shopping, most shoppers said it met their expectations and that the bargains were just about the same as they were last year. 

But Americans took different views of the two shopping day protests:  supporting the Walmart protests, opposing those criticizing the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case. 

There were some serious group differences.  Democrats and independents overwhelmingly favored the Walmart protests while Republicans opposed those protests by nearly two to one.   And the racial divide about the Michael Brown decision protest mirrors those seen in all polls conducted since the grand jury decided not to indict Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who shot and killed the unarmed Brown in August.  Blacks supported the protests by 61% to 26%; while opposed them 66% to 22%.

See the full poll results

Economist/YouGov poll archives can be found here.