Poll: Americans dread political discussions at Thanksgiving

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The Thanksgiving dinner table is a place for food, family, and friendly conversation. At least, it used to be.

A new NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll found that 58 percent of people were dreading having to discuss politics at the Thanksgiving table. 31 percent were eager, 11 percent were unsure, and, with the holiday season in full swing, there will be plenty more family get-togethers.

"Oh no. They do not come up at the dinner table," said Eli Brown. "It should be about fun and love and happiness and all that's good in the world."

"A lot of my family are Democratic and the other half are Republicans so when they meet together, it's crazy," said Ana Selky. "I kind of just stay quiet and listen to everybody."

It doesn't help when politicians actually encourage it. Senator Chuck Schumer tweeted a graphic, saying, "Bring this chart to Thanksgiving dinner. It’ll come in handy when that family member who always talks politics tells you the Republican tax bill helps the middle class."

"You have more couples and people fighting than I've ever seen over politics," said Dr. Timothy Evans.

Dr. Evans of Carter & Evans Marriage and Family Therapy in Tampa says if Uncle Joe starts debating, first, listen and be respectful.

"Say, 'I understand' or 'good point' or 'let me think about that' or take it into consideration and maybe change the subject," Evans suggested.

If he keeps trying to push your buttons, "Just a simple 'I disagree, enough said, and I'll be back in 10 minutes.' You disengage, you leave, you haven't fought, you haven't given in," Evans said.

A lot of families think it's a good idea to set ground rules before dinner, making politics off-limits. Dr. Evans said that could be a problem, too. "I wouldn't go there because I think that'll start an argument right now," Evans said. "People are going to say why not? We need to have dialogue or we need to talk about these things."

Evans suggests steering the conversation toward things that bring the family together, rather than apart.

One thing we can all agree on is that the holidays remind us what's really important.

"The jokes start coming out, the laughs, you know when your cheeks hurt," Luis Mendez said, describing his family gatherings.

"Even when things are crazy and you hear all this talk and division and things like that, your family is your family and you just want to be filled with love and happiness and thank God that you have all the people that are sitting at that table," Brown said.