In the weeks leading up to the 2012 Thanksgiving celebration, we have been studying consumer attitudes toward the autumn holiday and some of its longstanding traditions. The survey questions referenced below were answered online by a minimum of 3,500 respondents. Results were reweighted when necessary to represent the full US population age 13 and older. Full results and charts are available upon request.

Here are some of the key findings:


– Overall, 85% of Americans attend some kind of Thanksgiving gathering. The largest group, 37%, will attend a gathering of between 5 to 10 people, while 34% will celebrate with a group larger than 10.

– 42% of people will host their Thanksgiving gathering and cook the feast themselves. A near-equal 43% will attend a gathering hosted by a friend or family member. Despite major marketing pushes by restaurants, only 6% of consumers will eat Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant or club and 2% will have their meal catered at home.

– 18% of Americans will attend a Thanksgiving gathering more than 100 miles from home, with 14% travelling by car, 3% travelling by plane, and 1% travelling by bus.


– 56% of Americans say they are likely to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, with 19% saying they are Very Likely. Numbers are boosted by the fact that 60% of women plan to watch and 25% of people aged 35 to 44 say they are Very Likely.

– Football rules the airwaves on Thanksgiving. 63% of consumers say they are likely to watch the NFL games on Thursday, while a whopping 44% say they are Very Likely. Not surprising, 53% of men saying they are Very Likely to watch the games.

– 33% of consumers say they plan to see a movie in theaters over the Thanksgiving weekend, with 12% saying Very Likely. The big numbers come from people aged 25 to 34. 44% of Americans in this age bracket are at least somewhat likely to bolster the box office receipts this weekend.


– Of the most ubiquitous Thanksgiving delicacies, good old-fashioned turkey still rules the roost, with 38% of Americans choosing it as their favorite. Stuffing comes in a respectable second with 29%, while cranberry sauce brings up the rear at 5%.

– Pumpkin pie dominates as the most popular Thanksgiving dessert, pulling a full 44% of the vote. Apple pie is a distant second at 22% with pecan pie right behind at 21%. No numbers, however, were more influenced by geography than these. While pumpkin pie stayed number one across the country, pecan pie was a much closer second in US South at 30%. Apple pie was a close and clear second in the US Northeast at 26%.

Pre-Thanksgiving Plans 

– Finally, we examined people’s plans on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving and found a broad range of answers. 37% of Americans plan to spend the night at home with family and friends and 36% have nothing planned. 8% plan to go out for the night and 4% will be traveling. Unfortunately, 9% of consumers will be working.  

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