How The Coronavirus Is Changing Holiday Plans Across The U.S.

A new HuffPost/YouGov survey finds low expectations for the season and disagreements about what's safe to do amid COVID-19.

For much of the U.S. this year, the holidays will look anything but normal, a new HuffPost/YouGov survey of registered voters finds.

More than half of respondents, 56%, say they’re expecting the upcoming holiday season to be less fun than usual, with 30% expecting it to be about the same as usual and just 3% expecting it to be more fun than usual. One-third expect the holidays to be unusually stressful this year, with 1% saying they’ll be about as stressful as usual and 15% that they’ll be less stressful than usual.

Roughly half of those polled say their plans for the upcoming holiday season have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Many say they’re canceling travel, cutting back on spending, rethinking big family gatherings or resorting to Zoom.

“I don’t plan to see anyone other than my immediate family,” wrote one woman in Missouri. “I don’t plan to shop in stores. I really just wish we could skip the holidays this year.”

While regret and frustration over the state of the pandemic were common, some respondents expressed additional resentment over restrictions meant to stem the spread of the disease. “[I] wanted to travel out of state but our stupid governor makes it difficult to live somewhat normal,” wrote one California man.

Others, meanwhile, are grieving the toll the virus has already taken on their families.

My brother [is] in ICU from COVID-19 complications for over 2 weeks & may not survive,” a woman from Oregon wrote.

With coronavirus cases spiking across the country, experts are warning against traditional plans like big family dinners indoors. But there’s considerable public disagreement over what sort of holiday plans are responsible in the midst of a pandemic.

Seven in 10 voters say it’d be somewhat or very responsible for a person in their community to attend an outdoor gathering with fewer than 10 people, while 53% it’d be responsible for someone to attend an indoor gathering of the same size and 42% say it’d be responsible to attend an outdoor gathering of 10 or more people. Just 27% say it’d be responsible to attend an indoor gathering of more than 10 people.

Results of a HuffPost/YouGov survey on the 2020 holiday season.
Results of a HuffPost/YouGov survey on the 2020 holiday season.
HuffPost/YouGov survey

Republicans are more likely than Democrats to consider every decision responsible, but the biggest gap comes on the topic of smaller indoor gatherings, with 70% of GOP voters but just 38% of Democratic voters considering them at least somewhat responsible.

Roughly half of voters, 47%, say that the precautions they’re taking against the coronavirus during the holidays mark them as being about as concerned as most others in their community, with 28% seeing themselves as more concerned than most, and just 17% saying they’re less concerned than most.

Democratic voters are more than twice as likely as Republican voters to describe themselves as more concerned than most around them. Female Democrats are especially likely to see themselves as more concerned than average.

Relatively few of these differences in risk tolerance, however, appear to have erupted into open conflict. Just 7% of voters say they’ve gotten into an argument with someone they know about how to handle holiday plans during the pandemic.

Here’s how voters’ plans have changed, in their own words.

Responses are lightly edited for length, grammar and clarity.

“I’m scared to be around family for the holidays.” ― 38-year-old Alabama man

“I was supposed to spend Christmas in Australia, but canceled my trip due to COVID.” ― 59-year-old Arkansas woman

“Will not be attending events with certain parts of the family who refuse to take COVID safety measures seriously.” ― 28-year-old Arkansas woman

“We’re relieved to be obliged to cancel festivities. We’re too damned burned out from the dumpster fires the asshole administration has been setting.” ― 60-year-old Florida woman

“Will not be able to love on my 80-year-old mom or see my sister who lives with her. My son lives in Texas and I am afraid of him catching COVID because he is in an environment that denies COVID is bad, and I miss him and I want to see him but he doesn’t have the money to travel to where I am, and I don’t have the money to send for him.” ― 54-year-old Florida woman

“I will miss the Salvation Army Thanksgiving dinner this year.” ― 44-year-old Illinois man

“I’ve had to ask family members if they still would be willing to come if other family members have just exited quarantine from COVID.” ― 60-year-old Indiana woman

“My older brother and his wife live in a town a few hours away. Even though we all take necessary precautions, I don’t think it’s a good idea to travel back and forth for the holidays.” ― 20-year-old Kansas woman

“Unable to have friends over because the doomsayers are exploiting the virus for political gain.” ― 78-year-old Massachusetts woman

“I have coronavirus so all is canceled.” ― 59-year-old Nebraska woman

“Peanut butter and jelly for Thanksgiving.” ― 77-year-old Nevada man

“I’m in the hospital and will be here through Thanksgiving.” ― 60-year-old New Jersey woman

“I am devastated not to be with my grandbaby on his first Christmas” ― 58-year-old North Carolina woman

“NO family contact, NO home-cooked-with-love meals and leftovers!” ― 53-year-old Ohio woman

“Social distancing, masks, yada yada” ― 68-year-old Pennsylvania man

“I don’t get to see my kids and I might be planning a funeral for my dad, who is currently hospitalized with COVID.”

- Survey respondent from West Virginia

“We usually have a few large family gatherings. This year, they will be smaller but equally enjoyable. Religious observance will continue as usual although church service attendance might be virtual. Holiday shopping will mostly be done online, but we will do some shopping in person and will purchase a Christmas tree as usual in person. We will enjoy celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ as we have every year.” ― 82-year-old Pennsylvania man

“We are still trying to decide if we can travel to another state to celebrate with our daughter and her family.” ― 74-year-old South Dakota man

“I’ve had to cancel a bunch of meals with extended family, but that’s cool.” ― 25-year-old Utah man

“Will not spend Thanksgiving or Christmas inside my granddaughter’s home. Will exchange gifts outside.” ― 76-year-old Virginia woman

“My wife is forced to remain in her birth country of Peru while I have to work here. Her mother needs her assistance because the virus would certainly kill her.” ― 56-year-old Washington man

“I don’t get to see my kids and I might be planning a funeral for my dad, who is currently hospitalized with COVID” ― 48-year-old West Virginia woman

“How the f**k do you think?” ― 28-year-old Wisconsin man

The HuffPost/YouGov poll consisted of 1,000 completed interviews conducted Nov. 17-19 among U.S. registered voters, using a sample selected from YouGov’s opt-in online panel to match the demographics and other characteristics of the population.

HuffPost has teamed up with YouGov to conduct daily opinion polls. You can learn more about this project and take part in YouGov’s nationally representative opinion polling. More details on the polls’ methodology are available here.

Most surveys report a margin of error that represents some but not all potential survey errors. YouGov’s reports include a model-based margin of error, which rests on a specific set of statistical assumptions about the selected sample rather than the standard methodology for random probability sampling. If these assumptions are wrong, the model-based margin of error may also be inaccurate.

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