Poll: Many want to avoid political talk this Thanksgiving
WASHINGTON — Pass the turkey, but maybe hold the politics. The already-fraught topic now includes allegations of sexual misconduct against politicians of various political stripes.
From GOP President Donald Trump to Democratic Sen. Al Franken, politicians past, present and aspiring stand accused of sexual misconduct and that could keep tensions high at the holiday table. More than a third of Americans dread the prospect of politics coming up over Thanksgiving, a new poll shows.
Glenn Rogers, a Republican from Los Angeles, says he asks people around the table to talk about things to celebrate from the past year. Not everyone, he knows, will be toasting the Trump presidency.
“For the most part, we get to the point where we know that we’re not going to agree with each other and it gets dropped,” says the 67-year-old manufacturing consultant, who says he voted less for Trump than against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
With a cascade of sexual misconduct scandals now echoing similar allegations against Trump during the campaign, tempers on the subject of Trump may not have cooled, says Rogers. “When you start talking about it now, there’s still some, I think, real animosity when you start talking about character.”
Rogers is among more than a third of Americans who say they dread the prospect of politics coming up over Thanksgiving, compared with just 2 in 10 who say they’re eager to talk politics, according to a new poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Four in 10 don’t feel strongly either way.
Democrats are slightly more likely than Republicans to say they’re uneasy about political discussions at the table, 39 percent to 33 percent. And women are more likely than men to say they dread the thought of talking politics, 41 percent to 31 percent.
Those who do think there’s at least some possibility of politics coming up are somewhat more likely to feel optimistic about it than Americans as a whole. Among this group, 30 percent say they’d be eager to talk politics and 34 percent would dread it.
The debate over whether to talk politics at Thanksgiving is about as American as the traditional feast itself. By Christmas 2016, 39 percent of U.S. adults said their families avoided conversations about politics, according to the Pew Research Center.
But Americans are still trying to figure out how to talk about the subject in the age of Trump and amid the sexual misconduct allegations that have ignited a new debate over standards for conduct between men and women. The conversation, some analysts and respondents say, touches on identity among people who group themselves by other factors, such as family, friendship or geography.
Ten months into Trump’s difficult presidency, he remains a historically unpopular president and a deeply polarizing force in the United States. His drives to crack down on immigration in the name of national security and the economy cut right to the question of who is an American. And his defense on Tuesday of Republican U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, the former Alabama judge accused by six women of pursuing romantic relationships with them when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, comes amid a wider deluge of sexual misconduct scandals.
For any mention of Moore, who denies the accusations against him, there’s Franken of Minnesota, who has apologized or said he feels bad about the allegations against him. For every mention of the “Access Hollywood” tape in which Trump could be heard bragging about touching women without their consent, there are allegations that Democratic President Bill Clinton assaulted women. Both men deny the accusations.
Trump won the 2016 election, even though more than a dozen women accused him of sexual misconduct, and roughly half of all voters said they were bothered by his treatment of women, according to exit polls. Trump called the allegations false and said he would sue the women, but that hasn’t happened.
In the past, the Emily Post Institute Inc. received Thanksgiving etiquette questions that were typically about how to handle difficult relatives, says author Daniel Post Senning.
“Now, I am hearing questions like, ‘I don’t want to go,’ or ‘I can’t imagine sitting at a table with someone who has this perspective and staying through the meal,'” he says. “My impression is that it’s still out there. … The shock of that election is a little further in the rearview mirror, but I think people still have strong feelings about it.”
Fort Worth, Texas, resident Greg McCulley saw that firsthand last year. He recalls that of a dozen adults gathered around the Thanksgiving table, all but one was celebrating Trump’s election. That was his sister-in-law, who fumed about Trump and the “Access Hollywood” tape. Tension seethed.
“It was like, you say Donald Trump was bad, then someone says Bill Clinton was bad, so that extended to Hillary Clinton,” says McCulley, 43, an Air Force retiree who voted for Trump but doesn’t dispute that Trump’s recorded remarks were troubling. He does expect politics to come up this year, probably about sexual assault.
“The conservatives have more of a bigger bone. They’ll say look at Al Franken,” says McCully, who nonetheless looks forward to the conversation. “But it may be that my sister-in-law keeps her mouth zipped and says, ‘I don’t want to wade into those waters again like last year.'”
The AP-NORC poll of 1,070 adults was conducted Nov. 15-19 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.
Respondents were first selected randomly using address-based sampling methods and later interviewed online or by phone.