The new political culture that is American Thanksgiving

Using smartphone-tracking data and precinct-level voting, we show that politically divided families shortened Thanksgiving dinners by 20-30 minutes following the divisive 2016 election. This decline survives comparisons with 2015 and extensive demographic and spatial controls, and more than doubles in media markets with heavy political advertising. These effects appear asymmetric: while Democratic voters traveled less in 2016, political differences shortened Thanksgiving dinners more among Republican voters, especially where political advertising was heaviest. Partisan polarization may degrade close family ties with large aggregate implications; we estimate 27 million person-hours of cross-partisan Thanksgiving discourse were lost in 2016 to ad-fueled partisan effects.

That is from a new paper by M. Keith Chen and Ryne Rohla, via the excellent Kevin Lewis.


Cool research idea, but not only is Big Brother watching us, now Big Professor is.

All just faces of Big Data

....the idea may be "Cool", but its methodology, assumptions and execution are
preposterous. This is junk social science.

I initially assumed it was something satirical from "The Onion"

"This is junk social science." A distinction without a difference.

@dearieme: Yet here you are reading a blog by two social scientists.

Junk can be entertaining. I suppose most entertainment is junk.

It's a family thing. On the one hand, my brother and I were polar opposites when it came to politics and it often made holidays a challenge. On the other hand, my best friend and I are polar opposites when it comes to politics but I cherish my time during the holidays with him and his family. We are hardest and least tolerant of family. Why is that?

I think this an illusion caused by the fact that in your case your family isn't imaginary.

Obviously because families are not chosen. You have to put up with them. You have to eat the same damn Groundhog-Day-like dinner with them. Year after year. Decade after decade.

Whereas you can walk out of a friendship without a second thought.

People who don't get this don't have real families.

In a culture of nuclear families like in the US, families are to a large degree chosen, and which sides of families to have holiday dinners with are chosen as well. And given that divorce is also acceptable and easily accessible, people can and do walk out of families fairly easily.

I am sure lots of people avoid their relatives completely. But that does not mean they are entirely happy with those relatives they feel they have to visit. They are chosen for all sorts of reasons many of which are hard to evade without guilt.

We have vast bureaucracies set up to insure that people cannot walk away from marriages. Although I assume that divorce guts a great deal.

Because family is closely tied to identity; whether by nature or nurture, family says - or is perceived to say - something about ourselves.

@Scott Mauldin - ^This. Because rightly or wrongly I feel a level of responsibility for stated views and perhaps actions of my family. They share my name.

I reckon the wysdome doth incarnate is self-inflicted, mutually reinforced, and bycause the incissors are inconsistent with the molars.

Russian attempt

To destroy

Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Or the Rothschilds? So hard to know, isn't it? The Freemasons? The Pope? Queen Elizabeth? The Illuminati?

But you must be right. It's the Russians. Why, the FBI and CIA agree.

Or is it Turkey?

I don't think Turkey divides families in the way that the post describes.

However, I have seen people fight over


White and Dark meat.

A hollow point. It was not prejudice that influenced our opinions of Russia. It was, and is, experience.

Come now, we live in a new age. One where trusting a former member of the KGB, previously stationed in a Soviet vassal state and a man involved in recruiting new KGB members, can be trusted to always tell the truth.

Of course, as soon as the Republicans are back in control, this sort of extreme left wing idiocy concerning trusting a former Soviet KGB officer will be thrown out the window, right?

It's not that anyone trusts Putin absolutely, they just trust his word more than Heillary's.

Don't be obtuse. Bush, Obama and Trump all proposed a re-set with Russia.

Not because they trust -- or intend to trust -- Putin, but because they don't want Russia as a worry, as an enemy. Most likely they think Russia can just go to hell in a handbasket if it wants to, on its own dime. Of course it is sad that Russians live under an authoritarian ruler. But mostly the "re-setters" just don't want an enemy when there are more pressing matters: North Korea (as Obama opined) and Iran. And perhaps China, depending on how she treats her neighbours.

Very cool research.

Tyler often chooses to highlight abstracts like this: stuffed full of overgeneralized, unjustifiable claims.

Partisan polarization may degrade close family ties with large aggregate implications; we estimate 27 million person-hours of cross-partisan Thanksgiving discourse were lost in 2016 to ad-fueled partisan effects.

The hardest idea to swallow is that "close family ties" is related to "cross-partisan Thanksgiving discourse". The article provides zero evidence for this, but just glibly assumes it to be true. Also notice the word may. Partisan polarization may do a lot of things, or it may not, but I repeat myself. The abstract primes us in its first sentence to accept that "damaged family ties" will be the subject of the study, but except for wishful thinking of the authors, the subject of the study is no such thing, but rather just anonymized cell phone location data.

"Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man's foes shall be they of his own household."

Ah, but was he prophesying what would happen in individual families, or in Jewish society? In other words, was he predicting the split into Christianity and Rabbinical Judaism? He could be rather enigmatic, eh?

By the way, if the sword was the metaphor for a instrument of division, does that mean that scissors had not yet been invented?

WKPD says Egypt, 1500BC. OK, he used sword because it implies fighting rather than merely dividing. Dead easy this biblical exegesis, eh?


"John also tells how the dispute split his own family, describing two sons and a son-in-law as “scabs"."
I know.. The Mirror, but still..

Questions, rather than commentary

"Partisan polarization may degrade close family ties with large aggregate implications"

Can you describe the family ties as particularly close if partisan polarization becomes more important? For example, the fact that my dad and his brother are pretty darned far from each other on the political spectrum doesn't interrupt their weekly lunch or the fact that they share a hobby or two. And from what I can tell, it's not so much that they just agree to not talk politics as it is an agreement that there are more important things in life.

"we estimate 27 million person-hours of cross-partisan Thanksgiving discourse were lost in 2016 to ad-fueled partisan effects."

I don't consider missing "cross-partisan Thanksgiving discourse" a bad thing.

Comments for this post are closed