Happy – and Mostly Stress-Free – Thanksgiving from the Rugers-Eagleton Poll

Click here for a PDF of the full text plus questions and tables for this release


 Thanksgiving a Mostly Stress-Free Holiday

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J.Half of New Jerseyans plan some travel for Thanksgiving although only 17 percent will leave the state, according to a new Rutgers-Eagleton Poll. Spending the day with friends and family is the most enjoyable part of the holiday for 80 percent of respondents while 11 percent place the meal above all and 3 percent call a TV schedule chock full of football the best part of the holiday.

Despite visits with family and the challenges of preparing a large meal, Thanksgiving appears to be mostly stress-free, with only one-in-four respondents (26 percent) feeling worries about the holiday.

While 51 percent of New Jerseyans will travel for Thanksgiving, about one-in-three won’t leave the state and 48 percent will celebrate at home. Almost half (45 percent) will enjoy time with immediate family and one-third will celebrate with extended family. Economic considerations may play a role in the decision with whom to celebrate: wealthier Garden Staters are much more likely to travel to extended family, while those earning less than $50,000 annually will stay home and celebrate with their immediate family.

“Thanksgiving is very family-oriented,” said poll Director David Redlawsk, a professor of political science at Rutgers University. “However, it takes financial resources to get together with extended family, and that’s more difficult for many in these tough economic times.”

Results are from a poll of 753 registered voters conducted Nov. 9-12, and has a margin of error of +/- 3.6 percentage points.

Women more likely to stay home for the holiday

Despite their traditional role of preparing the meal, only 28 percent of women call Thanksgiving stressful, compared to 24 percent of men. At the same time, women are more likely to stay at home for the holiday. Fifty-five percent of woman plan to celebrate at home, while only 41 percent of men will not travel.

“Traveling means that someone else is taking care of the preparations,” Redlawsk said. “It may be that staying home with the responsibility of meal preparation is what causes the slight increase in stress among women.”

Kitchen duty also might explain why men are twice as likely as women to focus on Thanksgiving dinner, with 14 percent of men naming the meal as what they enjoy most, compared to only 7 percent of women. Still, 74 percent of men and 85 percent of women say the holiday is about family.

Thanksgiving most stressful for lower earners

Income affects respondents’ perception of stress. One-third of those making less than $50,000 say that Thanksgiving comes with at least some stress, but only 20 percent with incomes between $100,000 and $150,000 find the holiday stressful. Stress increases for the highest income earners: 28 percent of those earning more than $150,000 report feeling stressed about Thanksgiving.

Not surprisingly, the wealthy are most likely to say they have out-of-state holiday plans. Fully one-quarter of the highest earning households will leave New Jersey, but only 5 percent of those making under $50,000 will be joining them outside the Garden State. Instead, 61 percent will stay home and another one-third will travel in-state. Half of high-income residents will play host for the holiday and a quarter will travel in-state.

Wealthier New Jerseyans, who can better afford to travel outside the state, are much more likely to celebrate the holiday with their extended family: 48 percent earning between $100,000 and $150,000 will celebrate with extended family compared to 18 percent of those making less than $50,000. About half (52 percent) of those earning less than $50,000 will celebrate with immediate family.

Stress greater among most, least educated

Thanksgiving seems to weigh more on those with a high school education or less, and those with graduate degrees. The in-betweeners are much less stressed by the holiday. While about 18 percent with a college education report stress, twice as many of the least educated (37 percent) and most educated (34 percent) say they find the holiday stressful. At the same time, similar percentages of each group plan to stay home for the holiday, so travel is not necessarily causing this difference. Nor is it about with whom people celebrate. While 51 percent of the least educated will celebrate with immediate family, only 34 percent of the most educated say the same.

“This education effect is interesting, but hard to nail down,” said Redlawsk. “Education is clearly related to income, and we see a similar pattern there, but it doesn’t seem we can pin it on who they visit or where they go.”


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