Americans Seek To Avoid Politics At the Thanksgiving Table

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A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that Americans can agree they’re in no mood to talk politics at the Thanksgiving table this year.  

“There’s always been political tensions if families have differed politically but those differences and those divides have increased dramatically over the last couple of years,” Melissa Whitson, a professor of psychology at the University of New Haven, says. 

Whitson says go armed with a way to redirect the conversation.

“Even if someone starts bringing stuff up, don’t feel the need to defend yourself or things like that just change the subject,” Whitson says. “Say ‘Hey, can we not talk about that? Let’s focus on this, that, and the other thing.’ Have other things ready to talk about.”

The Quinnipiac University poll found 66% say they are hoping to avoid discussing politics while visiting friends and family this week. Only 21% say they are looking forward to discussing politics. 

“Seven in 10 say they’re not going near it but I don’t know, a couple of glasses of wine into the evening, you never know,” Quinnipiac University Pollster Tim Malloy says. 

Malloy says it’s the first time they’ve asked the question so there’s no historical data to say whether Americans generally avoid politics at Thanksgiving. 

“You know the world is a mess, let’s be honest, that’s not polling talk that’s just something we all know, so I don’t know how you could gravitate away from at least talking about how life is,” Malloy says. 

“Thanksgiving is supposed to be a time of bringing people together and understanding one another and it just seems that the polarization that we’re witnessing you know in politics today is even dividing thanksgiving dinner tables. It really is. It’s unfortunate,” Sacred Heart Political Science Professor Gary Rose says. 

Rose says it's not the economic issues that are the problem. 

“It’s really the culture war that’s going on in this country that makes speaking about those issues at Thanksgiving dinner really taboo and it’s not a good idea. It can have a dramatic chilling effect on people around the table,” Rose says. 

Rose says the issues to avoid include abortion, critical race theory, and immigration. 

“We find that although people have fears about it most families don’t end up talking about politics unless they’re all on the same page,” Whitson says.  

“I think that most families are going to have agreements, these sort of implicit agreement that they’re not going to talk about it,” she added. 

Nothing good can come of it. 

“We can acknowledge that we’re not going to change anyone’s mind at the thanksgiving table so even if people do start bringing stuff up just know that that’s not the time to have that kind of discussion,” Whitson says. 

“Better to feast on the turkey rather than feast on each other though is certainly the way we’re looking at it,” Malloy adds.

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