Americans Say They Will Avoid Talking Politics During Christmas
ST. LEO, FL – Most Americans say they will avoid controversial topics such as politics at their holiday gatherings this year, according to a new poll released by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute (http://polls.saintleo.edu). And more younger Americans say they will decline Christmas invitations to avoid conflicts during the holidays.
Fielded online from November 13 through November 18 among 1,000 total respondents nationally, the Saint Leo poll asked several questions examining Americans’ opinions on the Christmas holiday. Those who say they will celebrate Christmas in 2019 (88.9 percent), were asked how they will approach civility and possible disputes with friends and families at this time of year, as well as stress that the holiday may bring.
Respondents who say they celebrate Christmas were asked if the following statements applied to them. The table shows the percentages reporting “yes.”
|Christmas Holiday Statements||
U.S “Yes” – %
|We avoid controversial topics at Christmas gatherings I host/attend.||
|I encourage political conversation at Christmas gatherings I host or attend.||
|I feel less connected to family and friends due to the political polarization and divide that is occurring.||
|We encourage political conversation at Christmas gatherings but limit time or close the conversation down if it gets heated.||
|I am stressed and anxious in advance of and during Christmas gatherings I host/attend due to heated political debates/disagreements.||
|Sometimes I feel baited or goaded into heated political conversations at Christmas gatherings I host or attend.||
|I have declined Christmas gathering invitations, this year or in the past, due to the political divide and expected conflicts and disagreements that will likely occur.||
Delving into the findings, Dr. Christopher Wolfe, assistant professor of psychology at Saint Leo, noted a divide by generations. “For example, those within the 18-35 range—generations including Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z—were more likely to endorse the idea of engaging in political conversation at Christmas (38.7 percent) as opposed to the 36-55 age group (18.3 percent) and 56-plus group (11.9 percent),” Wolfe said. “It might be too flip to believe this a result of the polarization of politics as both of the older generations also experienced large and impactful sociopolitical change. Instead, I think it more indicative of our younger generations distaste for the old barriers of decorum—the idea that certain days or events and even beliefs should be viewed as ‘off-limits’ for discussion. Our younger respondents have only known a world in flux—where old values, labels, and systems have been in constant question and many of these old ideas discarded.”
Saint Leo’s poll shows more younger Americans say they have declined or will decline to attend Christmas gatherings with family and friends to avoid conflict with 24.6 percent of the 18-35 age group, 9.8 percent of the 36-55 group, and 12.7 of the 56 and older group agreeing.
Feeling less connected with “Uncle Bob” or the down-the-street neighbor because of their politics appears to affect the younger poll respondents more, too. When asked whether they agree with the statement “I feel less connected to family and friends due to the political polarization and divide that is occurring,” 30.1 percent the 18-35 bracket agree. Among those ages 36-55, it was 17.6 percent, and 16.1 percent for ages 56 and older.
“Yes, the younger generation wants to discuss politics and controversial topics at dinner but…if the friends and family are too vehement in their disagreement, it would seem the younger generation is willing to back out and avoid the conflict altogether,” Wolfe said. “The expectation that one would endure connection with others simply due to familial ties is fading. We now celebrate our families of choice as much as celebrate our families of origin. The idea of choice and the importance of ‘self-truth’ have become buzzwords to both our society overall and to our families.”
Bridging the Gap
So what can be done to bridge the divide? Wolfe offered some advice. “As (just barely) a member of the middle group—the newly named Xennial generation (born 1977-1983) I would offer my advice not to the young, but to those of my generation and older,” he said. “That advice is listen, understand, and respect. Yes, as parents and grandparents, you have demanded this from the younger generation their whole lives. And, yes, learning to respect and understand your values has shaped your child in many positive ways. Now, however, is the time to hear the thoughts and opinions of that beautiful mind you helped to shape. Listen to the passion in your child’s voice while they talk about a candidate you hate and be grateful they are engaged and thinking about this country and its future.
“When we fail to listen, understand, and respect the views of our loved ones—even those we vehemently disagree with—we only gain a holiday table surrounded by empty chairs.”
About the Poll
METHODOLOGY: This national survey was conducted from November 13 through November 18, 2019, among a base of 1,000 respondents nationally, using an online instrument. The national sample has an associated margin of error of +/- 3.0 percent at a 95 percent confidence for questions asked of all 1,000 respondents.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.
The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can also be found here: http://polls.saintleo.edu. You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.
Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Writer & Media Relations, firstname.lastname@example.org, (352) 588-7118 or cell (813) 610-8416
Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications email@example.com or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text).
About Saint Leo University
Saint Leo University is one of the largest Catholic universities in the nation, offering nearly 60 undergraduate and graduate-level degree programs to more than 19,500 students each year. Founded in 1889 by Benedictine monks, the private, nonprofit university is known for providing a values-based education to learners of all backgrounds and ages in the liberal arts tradition. Saint Leo is regionally accredited and offers a residential campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, 32 education centers in seven states, and an online program for students anywhere. The university is home to more than 95,000 alumni. Learn more at saintleo.edu.