Poll: Most Americans Changing Thanksgiving Plans, Leery of Travel

A nurse collects a nasal swab sample from a traveler at a COVID-19 testing site at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020.

A nurse collects a nasal swab sample from a traveler at a COVID-19 testing site at the Los Angeles International Airport in Los Angeles, Monday, Nov. 23, 2020. AP Photo/Jae C. Hong


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But airports still saw significant traffic in recent days. The survey findings come as public health officials worry the holiday season could inflame already troublesome coronavirus trends.

As the nation contends with an upswing in coronavirus cases, most Americans—about 6-in-10—say they are changing their Thanksgiving plans and around three quarters say traveling for the upcoming holidays is risky, according to new poll results out Tuesday.

The Axios-Ipsos survey found that the most common changes that people are making to Thanksgiving plans include: gathering only with people in their immediate household (29%) and having a smaller dinner than originally planned (24%). About 9% of respondents said they’re going to skip celebrating the holiday entirely.

At the same time, airport travel data from this past weekend shows that plenty of people are traveling ahead of Thanksgiving. Statistics gathered by the Transportation Security Administration showed that more than 3 million people flew from Friday to Sunday, with airport check-ins reaching their highest point since March on Sunday. 

Similar to the views Americans hold on other issues related to the virus, there are significant partisan divides when it comes to Thanksgiving arrangements. About 75% of Democrats reported changing their plans compared to just 49% of Republicans. 

Virus infections have surged this fall in many states. At least 1,032 new coronavirus deaths and 179,067 new cases were reported in the U.S. on Nov. 23, according to data compiled by The New York Times

Around the country in recent days and weeks, public health leaders and state and local officials have stressed that hospital capacity and staff are growing strained by the influx of virus patients. 

Officials have also warned that Thanksgiving gatherings pose the risk of the virus spreading from people who have it, but are not showing symptoms, to their friends and family.

“What most concerns me now is the immediate situation with people traveling from different places, coming home for Thanksgiving,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a PBS interview this week.

Fauci also expressed worries about “numbers that are going in the wrong direction with regard to cases, with hospitalizations, deaths, all the things that are the warning parameters that we're in the middle of a really serious situation.”

The Axios-Ipsos survey shows that majorities of Americans continue to see activities like going out to eat and spending time inside indoor public places as risky due to the virus. 

It also found that the share of Americans who say they are wearing a mask at all times outside their home has hit a peak compared to prior surveys, at 72%, up from the mid-60% range earlier this year.

The poll, conducted Nov. 20 to 23, includes responses from a nationally representative sample of 1,002 adults. It has a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level for results based on the entire sample of respondents.

A full copy of the findings can be found here.

Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

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