Why Impeachment Makes for Bad Thanksgiving Dinner Conversation

4 minute read

If you want to avoid indigestion this week, skimp on politics—and possibly the gravy—this Thanksgiving.

Unless everyone at the table is wearing bright-red Make America Great Again hats or #imstillwithher pins, it’s best to avoid the political headlines altogether. Recent polls indicate there are very few people in your circle whose opinions will be bendable on the issue that has consumed Washington, D.C., this fall: the looming impeachment of President Donald Trump in the House and his unlikely removal from office by the Senate. Only 6% of respondents last month told Quinnipiac University’s poll that they were unsure whether or not Trump should be impeached and removed from office. And with nearly a year to go before elections, just 17% of Americans say they are undecided about whether they are voting for or against Trump, according to another NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey.

Avoiding politics has always been a good rule of polite dinner conversation, but acrimony this season rivals the friction felt in November of 2016, when many Americans saw family members for the first time after Trump won his election. The long, heated arguments over that year’s turkey still send a chill down many a host’s spine. And today, like three years ago, the partisan and generational divides on impeachment run consistent and deep. According to the Quinnipiac University poll, 55% of respondents support the House impeachment inquiry, with 93% of Democrats backing it and 88% of Republicans opposing it.

Trump’s strongest critics in recent polls are under the age of 40, according to Washington Post-ABC News polling. Many in that group stayed home in 2016, unimpressed with Hillary Clinton but are now organized and ready to flex their muscles. Millennials are the largest potential voting bloc in the country, with 72% of voters ages 18-29 disapprove of how Trump is handling his job, compared to 55% of voters ages 30-39. That may explain why, according to an earlier Pew Research Center survey, about a quarter of young Republicans left the GOP between December 2015 and March of 2017.

But all isn’t lost for the older MAGA crowd. Trump’s support among core Republican voters is expected to be his defense to block Republican Senators from defecting to vote to remove him from office, making his removal from office unlikely. And thanks to the buckets of cash that Trump and the Republican National Committee are raising, Trump supporters feel more emboldened to share their views or the President in mixed company. A May Pew survey found 57% of those who approve of Trump would voice that support at a divided dinner table, while just 43% of Trump critics would do the same.

Who should be TIME’s Person of the Year for 2019? Cast your vote in the reader poll.

So, what are the odds the conversation stays with mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie? Unless your family is extremely disciplined, the odds are slim someone won’t take a passing partisan swipe, simply because so many people are following along. Bland Washington hearings already rival Monday Night Football’s ratings — and that’s before the action has moved out of committee and to the full House and then, if things go as expected, to the Senate in January. An NPR-PBS poll released last week indicates 63% of adults were following the inquiry closely, only a slight downtick from the 68% who said the same in September. Democrats are watching the hearings more than Republicans, while independent voters were watching by a 2-to-1 margin, according to NPR-PBS. Among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents, 75% said they were watching, and 70% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents were doing the same.

In other words, impeachment isn’t something being written off by anyone, despite the White House’s insistence the House inquiry is inconsequential. Instead, there’s a clear sense that Americans are investing in this conversation and its outcome, suggesting they will have strong opinions to share over a meal with their friends and family. They just shouldn’t expect to change anyone’s mind.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Write to Philip Elliott at philip.elliott@time.com