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Potatoes And Pies Are OK, But Poll Shows Americans Don't Want Politics For Dinner


Americans may love Thanksgiving but not the political fighting that can crowd the table. That's something most of you would like to pass on entirely, according to our new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll. Other topics the poll covered are the lack of civility in politics and the prevalence of sexual harassment. NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea has our report.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Thanksgiving is just about here. Maybe you've still got a meal to plan or travel arrangements to sort out. But don't forget to prep for that other holiday tradition, arguing politics at the dinner table. Our new NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll shows that last part is something we could do without. In fact, 58 percent say they dread the thought of talking politics at Thanksgiving time. Lee Miringoff is the director of polling at Marist College.

LEE MIRINGOFF: If you want gravy with your turkey, you have to identify your position on the tax reform bill.

GONYEA: There's that saying - you can pick your friends but not your family. And the bigger the gathering, the more likely an uncomfortable conversation will ensue.

MIRINGOFF: So it's a bigger group, more friends, more relatives. And you run a greater risk that there may be someone there who has a very divergent view from yours.

GONYEA: There's a political divide here, as well. Democrats feel far greater anxiety over holiday political discussions, while about half of Republicans told us they find these conversations interesting and informative. Not a shock, given GOP control of the White House and Congress these days. This all fits in with another thing our poll found - civility in American politics has declined since President Trump's election. Again, pollster Lee Miringoff.

MIRINGOFF: If you think that things are getting more tense and more stressful in terms of what your perceptions are of what's going on in Washington, you are certainly not alone.

GONYEA: Two-thirds of Americans hold that view. And both Democrats and Republicans are at fault, according to our poll. But an even larger number - 70 percent - say President Trump is even worse on that score. Craig Calabria of Pennsylvania is one of those we surveyed in the poll.

CRAIG CALABRIA: The president's tone crosses the line - more occasions than I wish to remember.

GONYEA: Calabria is a Republican but one who does not approve of the job Trump is doing as president.

CALABRIA: I think it influences the public at large. Those that are sympathetic to his perspective are emboldened. And those that are not sympathetic are more outraged.

GONYEA: Now, the poll also looked at sexual harassment, which has been in the news so much lately. Thirty-five percent of the women we spoke with said they had been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace. Independent voter Betty Robinson of New Jersey is in that group.

BETTY ROBINSON: When I first started out my professional career, I worked in radio and television. And one of the reasons that I left that industry was because of the sexual harassment. It was horrible.

GONYEA: The poll also shows that an overwhelming majority - 87 percent - does think their employers provide adequate protections against sexual harassment and abuse. Betty Robinson says it's difficult, even painful, to see all of the coverage of one new incident after the next over the past couple of months. But, she says, something is happening - that women are finally being heard.

ROBINSON: It's kind of like a Band-Aid that's not being slowly ripped off. It's being ripped off now.

GONYEA: Now, one other thing the poll shows on this topic - by a better than 3 to 1 margin, people say their place of employment is more likely to believe the accuser than the accused in such cases. Still, 1 in 10 do say sexual harassment allegations are not taken seriously at all. Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

You're most likely to find NPR's Don Gonyea on the road, in some battleground state looking for voters to sit with him at the local lunch spot, the VFW or union hall, at a campaign rally, or at their kitchen tables to tell him what's on their minds. Through countless such conversations over the course of the year, he gets a ground-level view of American elections. Gonyea is NPR's National Political Correspondent, a position he has held since 2010. His reports can be heard on all NPR News programs and at NPR.org. To hear his sound-rich stories is akin to riding in the passenger seat of his rental car, traveling through Iowa or South Carolina or Michigan or wherever, right along with him.