How COVID-19 is impacting Thanksgiving festivities

November 23, 2020, 3:15 PM UTC

According to the latest Economist/YouGov poll, nearly half of Americans (47%) have seen some sort of COVID-related impact to their Thanksgiving. Although more than a third will still gather with friends and family this year, just 11% say they will travel to observe the holiday.  

Warnings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about Thanksgiving travel were posted after the completion of this poll; however, many people made their decisions about celebrating the holiday beforehand. 

The impact of COVID-19 on Thanksgiving plans shares the same partisan divisions seen in most questions about virus impact, with Democrats much more likely to say their plans have been affected than Republicans (62% vs 35%). Republicans who see the coronavirus caseload rising in their communities are also more likely than Republicans overall to report their plans have been impacted in some way (35% vs 47%). 

Americans who say the coronavirus has affected their plans are much less likely to say they will gather with friends and family (20%) than those who say their Thanksgiving plans were not affected (56%). Additionally, those unaffected are more likely to say they will travel (11%) than those who say their plans have been affected (6%).

At the moment, there is concern that COVID might get worse before Thanksgiving – but that’s only affected the people who are already worried. Fully 84% of this group say they are worried about Thanksgiving leading to an outbreak of COVID-19. 

By contrast, just 39% of those who haven’t felt the impact on their festivities are worried about an outbreak, and on top of this just 10% of such Americans say they would actually change their plans in the wake of a COVID-19 surge in their area. 

There is one big change in Thanksgiving this year from four years ago – and that is politics.  But this After the 2016 election, 30% of celebrants said that people at their dinner table mostly agree about politics. This year, that has risen to 45%.  

Just under one in five Americans (17%) this year admit there have been arguments around their Thanksgiving dinners in the past, about the same percentage who said so following the 2016 presidential election. This year, about one-third of registered voters (32%) expect fewer political arguments than usual at the Thanksgiving table, compared to 25% who think there will be more. 

The results are partisan, however. The expectation among those who voted to re-elect President Trump is that arguments will remain largely the same as usual (39%), or increase (31%). Only a quarter of Trump supporters (26%) expect less fighting. But, those who supported former Vice President (now President-Elect) Joe Biden anticipate more peaceful meals — two in five (40%) expect less fighting, and only 22%) say there will be more.  

Related: As America’s coronavirus caseload grows, political perceptions begin to change 

See the toplines and crosstabs from this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll 

Methodology: The Economist survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 1,500 registered voters interviewed online between November 15 - 17, 2020. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on the American Community Survey, conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, as well as 2016 Presidential vote, registration status, geographic region, and news interest. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel to be representative of all US citizens. The margin of error is approximately 3.2% for the overall sample.  

Image: Getty