‘Politically Diverse’ Holiday Dinners Needn’t Be Turkeys

16 Dec, 2020


‘Politically Diverse’ Holiday Dinners Needn’t Be Turkeys

December 2020

How are those holiday dinner plans coming, what with the pandemic and all? Yes, things are different this year, but here’s some encouraging news. Studies of recent Thanksgiving dinner get-togethers show that even in these polarized times, hosts and their guests are less likely to start throwing turkey legs at one another when the talk turns to politics.

The much-dreaded food fight might not happen because we’re not as divided as we sometimes imagine and the difference in the duration of Thanksgiving dinners is actually pretty small.

Studies of Thanksgiving dinners of 2016 found that those that included people with diverse political views were from 35 to 70 minutes shorter than those that were more homogenous in their leanings. But new research from the University of Winnipeg concludes that “politically diverse” Thanksgivings in 2018 were only 24 minutes shorter than “politically uniform” ones.

The researchers examined the dinners of more than 1,000 participants, gathering pre-event information about attitudes toward (wait for it) President Trump. They also discovered this fact: Political diversity per se could not be associated with either a “pleasant atmosphere” or an “engaging” one, and that “the less pleasant the social atmosphere, the longer the dinner.” So maybe when people started talking about politics, they actually lingered. (Or it could be they had more to drink. That’s our guess, though it is not mentioned in the report itself.)

Culture War Truce?

The researchers end their report on an encouraging note. The “bulk of evidence thus far suggests that although people expect conversations with unlike-minded others to be painful, they over-estimate the severity of the negative affect [sic] of these actual conversations. It appears that the Culture War division that exists is not as strong and toxic as generally thought, that many norms surrounding civility and politeness remain intact. With perhaps only a small disruption attributed to politics, Americans appear to be largely successful at putting aside their political differences and enjoying Thanksgiving dinner with relatives and friends with whom they differ.”

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