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Press Release for Tuesday, November 25, 2008

New University of North Florida National Poll: Thanksgiving in America

Contact: Joanna Norris, Assistant Director
Department of Media Relations and Events
(904) 620-2102

A University of North Florida Public Opinion Research Lab nationwide poll finds that history takes a backseat to popular culture when it comes to knowledge about the Thanksgiving holiday. While only 5 percent of respondents can correctly identify the year of the first Thanksgiving, more than 50 percent know the name of the street on which the “miracle” occurred in the movie “Miracle on 34th Street.”

The poll, conducted between November 17 and November 20, asked 306 adult respondents questions pertaining to the Thanksgiving holiday, including travel and consumption habits, knowledge of Thanksgiving history and popular culture, and questions relating to holiday spending on Black Friday.

Among the findings, the survey results indicate that:

• This year, 54.2 percent of respondents plan to spend Thanksgiving at their own home.
• Of the respondents interviewed 20.6 percent of those plan to travel out of town for Thanksgiving.
• More than one-third (38.3 percent) of those travelling out of town report travelling in excess of 100 miles to reach their Thanksgiving destination.
• A majority of respondents (66.7 percent) plan on travelling out of town the day before Thanksgiving.
• Over 13 percent of subjects report that they don’t plan to attend or host a Thanksgiving dinner.
• More than 9 out of 10 subjects (91.8 percent) typically eat turkey for the main course at Thanksgiving dinner (with ham being a distant runner-up at 22.1 percent).
• Americans are partial to their pumpkin pie, with 41.8 percent declaring it as their favourite Thanksgiving dessert. However, Thanksgiving dessert favourites are contingent on demographic variables, including age, income, race and census region.
• Thanksgiving Day is a lazy day, with more than twice as many respondents (12 percent) reporting that they will nap on Thanksgiving than those who will go for a walk (5.1 percent).
• The majority of those who do plan to shop on Black Friday (56 percent) intend to start their shopping day before 9 a.m.

Americans were statistically far more likely to know the answer to pop culture questions related to the Thanksgiving holiday than they were to know the answers to questions examining knowledge of the history of the holiday:

• Only 1.1 percent of subjects could answer all three Thanksgiving history questions correctly.
• Nearly twice as many Americans (58.1 percent) were unable to answer any history questions correctly than those who were unable to answer any pop culture questions correctly (31.3 percent).
• Only about 4 percent of subjects were able to correctly identify the year of the first Thanksgiving (1621), although 39.4 percent were able to identify the location of the first Thanksgiving as Plymouth Rock, Mass.

For complete survey results, or questions about the lab, its services, or methodology, please contact Dr. Paul Harwood, director of the UNF Public Opinion Research Laboratory, at (904) 620-4433 or by email at