Turkey Takes Center Stage, but Opinions Differ on Thanksgiving Favorites

by Gabriel Martinez
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Thanksgiving Preferences

While Thanksgiving is traditionally a time for Americans to come together, a recent AP-NORC poll reveals a division of opinion when it comes to the dishes adorning the festive table. While there is consensus on the delectable nature of pumpkin pie, the age-old turkey question of dark meat versus white meat continues to spark debate.

The Star of the Feast

According to the poll conducted by The Big Big News-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, approximately 32% of U.S. adults who will partake in Thanksgiving festivities this year have declared turkey as their favorite dish during the holiday feast. This sentiment is echoed by Ralph Caya, a 71-year-old resident of Pensacola, Florida, who participated in the survey and succinctly summed up his view, stating, “Thanksgiving — it’s about turkey.”

However, the perspective varies among individuals like Vaidehi Upadhyaya, a 27-year-old pharmacist from Glen Rock, New Jersey, who has been a lifelong vegetarian. For her, the focus is on the side dishes.

Notably, while turkey is celebrated across all regions and age groups, a subtle generational gap exists. Those aged 45 and above are particularly inclined to designate turkey as the star of the Thanksgiving table (39%), whereas younger adults are less enthusiastic, with only 24% sharing this sentiment.

The Meat Debate

Once the turkey is carved, approximately 43% of celebrators express a preference for white meat, in contrast to 28% who favor dark meat, with an additional 21% having no particular preference. This preference for white meat is accentuated among older individuals, with 31% of those aged 45 and above preferring it compared to 24% of their younger counterparts.

Surprisingly, about 10% of adults under 45 do not favor turkey at all, as revealed by the poll. Carlos Stallworth, a 58-year-old resident of Los Angeles, explains his preference for white meat, noting its suitability for sandwiches and leftovers.

The Sauce Dilemma

When it comes to the least favorite dishes on the Thanksgiving table, cranberries take the spotlight. Approximately 20% of celebrators express a lack of enthusiasm for cranberries or cranberry sauce. It is worth mentioning that 80 million pounds of cranberries are consumed during Thanksgiving week, according to KRC Research.

While opinions on cranberries vary, cranberry sauce preferences are also divided between canned and homemade varieties. Roughly 24% of respondents favor the canned version, while 22% prefer homemade. Meanwhile, 35% simply do not have a taste for cranberry sauce, with younger adults more likely to express this sentiment than their older counterparts.

The Dessert Delight

Pumpkin pie emerges as the dessert of choice for one-third of U.S. adults celebrating Thanksgiving. Pecan pie follows closely behind, garnering 17% of the vote, while apple pie and sweet potato pie claim 15% and 12%, respectively. Chocolate pie and cherry or berry pie are less popular, receiving single-digit percentages.

For regional preferences, some, like Ralph Caya in Florida, opt for pecan pie due to its regional appeal.

The Sweet Potato Controversy

One of the most debated aspects of Thanksgiving fare is the inclusion of marshmallows in sweet potato dishes. Approximately 32% of respondents prefer their sweet potato dishes without marshmallows, while 26% are in favor of their addition. One-quarter of respondents do not have a taste for sweet potato dishes at all, and 16% have no particular preference.

Regional differences also come into play, with Northeasterners (42%) more likely to eschew marshmallows compared to Midwesterners (29%) and Southerners (29%).

Overall, opinions on the inclusion of marshmallows in sweet potato dishes vary, with some, like Vaidehi Upadhyaya, seeing little difference in taste regardless of whether marshmallows are present.

The Cook’s Touch

Lauren Feldman, a 39-year-old resident of Indianapolis, emphasizes the importance of a personal touch in creating a successful Thanksgiving meal. For her, the homemade cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie crafted by her mother make all the difference.

When it comes to the preparation of the Thanksgiving feast, women (34%) are more likely than men (19%) to take on the responsibility of cooking. Meanwhile, a significant proportion of men (46%) plan to do minimal or no cooking, with only 25% of women sharing the same sentiment.

In conclusion, Thanksgiving is a time of unity and tradition, yet it also showcases the diversity of tastes and preferences that make this holiday celebration unique to each family and individual.

Note: The poll surveyed 1,239 adults from November 2-6, 2023, and utilized a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, designed to represent the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

Mark Kennedy can be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Thanksgiving Preferences

What were the key findings of the Thanksgiving poll?

The key findings of the Thanksgiving poll include that 32% of respondents favor turkey as their favorite dish, with some generational differences. Additionally, there is a debate between white and dark meat, preferences for cranberry sauce, and popular dessert choices.

What is the preference for turkey meat, white or dark?

The poll revealed that approximately 43% of celebrators prefer white meat, while 28% favor dark meat. Older individuals are more inclined to prefer dark meat (31%) compared to those under 45 (24%).

Are cranberries a popular Thanksgiving choice?

Cranberries are somewhat divisive, with about 20% of celebrators stating that they wouldn’t miss cranberries or cranberry sauce. However, opinions on cranberry sauce, whether canned or homemade, vary among respondents.

What desserts are commonly enjoyed during Thanksgiving?

Pumpkin pie is the top dessert choice for one-third of Thanksgiving celebrators, followed by pecan pie (17%), apple pie (15%), and sweet potato pie (12%). Other pies like chocolate and cherry or berry are less popular.

What’s the controversy surrounding sweet potatoes and marshmallows?

About 32% of respondents prefer sweet potato dishes without marshmallows, while 26% enjoy them with marshmallows. Regional differences exist, with Northeasterners more likely to skip marshmallows.

Who typically takes charge of cooking Thanksgiving meals?

The poll found that women (34%) are more likely than men (19%) to do most or all of the cooking for Thanksgiving. Conversely, 46% of men plan to do minimal or no cooking, compared to 25% of women.

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