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Americans Prefer A Politics-Free Discussion At Thanksgiving Dinner

Nov 21, 2017
Originally published on November 21, 2017 10:27 am
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

If you're attending a Thanksgiving dinner, will you be eager to talk about the news, eager to talk about politics, to hear your uncle's argument for why you're wrong about President Trump? Will you be eager to hear other relatives prescriptions for handling North Korea or race relations? Well, a new NPR-PBS NewsHour-Marist poll had to ask. And Domenico Montanaro, NPR's lead political editor, has some answers. Hi, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What did people say when asked about Thanksgiving?

MONTANARO: Well, you know, you mentioned eager to talk about politics around the table this week. And suffice it to say, they are not eager to talk about this. The poll found a solid majority - 58 percent saying that they dread it. That's up from last year when a different poll asked the same question. And like everything else, there's a huge political divide here, Steve. You know, fewer Republicans, about half, say they're dreading it. Democrats on the other hand, about two-thirds say they're dreading it, which may be not surprising because you've got President Trump in office. So that's the out party for Democrats. And here's what Democrats are saying too. They say that they find those conversations with people who have a different opinion about Donald Trump - they call it stressful and frustrating. Meanwhile, majority of Republicans say those conversations to them - interesting and informative.

INSKEEP: Now, that is really interesting, Domenico, because there is a lot of discussion in the media - whenever we go, and we talk with Trump supporters, we get response from people saying, why are you talking to those people? Stop putting those people on the air - not universally, but that's one of the responses. But you're telling me that Republicans at this moment - some of them anyway - are saying in this survey they would like to hear what the other side thinks.

MONTANARO: Well, or they think that they're happy to have the argument.

INSKEEP: (Laughter) They think it'll be an entertaining discussion for them.

MONTANARO: Sure.

INSKEEP: Might be the interpretation. Well, how popular is the president right now?

MONTANARO: You know, his approval rating's at 39 percent. That's about where it's been. In fact, we asked the pollsters at Marist just how consistent or inconsistent that's been. They said in the last 11 polls they've conducted in asking this question, Trump's approval rating has never gone higher than 39 percent - where it's been actually five times. And it's never been lower than 35 percent. That is - A - remarkably low for a president at this time in their presidency. But it's also pretty darn steady. And two-thirds of Americans believe the overall tone and civility in Washington has gotten worse since President Trump was elected.

INSKEEP: OK, so what should people do or try at Thanksgiving?

MONTANARO: You know, as much as they say they're dreading talking about politics, it's pretty tough to avoid it, you know. That's especially true when family comes together because - I don't know about you - but mine is not particularly shy about telling me their opinions.

INSKEEP: OK. I bet they're delighted. Oh, Domenico, you're in the news. You know all about this.

MONTANARO: Right. Yeah, there's a lot of that. So I just try to keep in mind what's really important. You know, and people should keep in mind what's important to them. I mean, I think being grateful is a great way to stay happy. And if that's too hard, you know, take a page out of politics and deflect. You know, like I - the one year at my brother's place where I said, hey, who wants to go in the basement and play Wii bowling...

INSKEEP: Oh, there we go.

MONTANARO: ...Because I wasn't going to talk about politics.

INSKEEP: And avoid phrases like despite your delusions or whatever else.

MONTANARO: No, definitely not.

INSKEEP: Domenico, I want to ask about a special interest of yours because today is the day for the pardoning of the Thanksgiving turkey.

MONTANARO: Oh, yes.

INSKEEP: Why? Why? Why is that a special interest of yours, Domenico?

MONTANARO: Well, as anyone who knows me knows this is a thing that I've kind of started to dig into a little bit over the last 10 years or so. And it's amazing, you know. And I found it to be kind of just a weird tradition. And it's amazing that things kind of become traditions sometimes because people just keep doing them. And I found that the turkey growers across the country have actually been sending turkeys to the White House since 1873.

INSKEEP: Wow.

MONTANARO: And it's kind of goofy. You know, they'd show up with these goggles on because of cross-country flights I guess to look like Amelia Earhart or something back in the day.

INSKEEP: Right.

MONTANARO: But there wasn't any of this pardoning business. They ate these turkeys. So I went and tried to find when did the pardoning start. And that happened formalized under George H.W. Bush in 1989 and only started to call it a pardon because Reagan was trying to deflect himself from the Iran-Contra scandal.

INSKEEP: OK, we will pardon you for looking into this so deeply. Domenico, thanks very much.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

MONTANARO: NPR's Domenico Montanaro. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.