PRINCETON, NJ -- The economy is affecting the holiday travel plans of one in five Americans, including 8% who are still traveling more than 100 miles from home but are cutting back significantly on the cost of the trip, and 12% who are staying near home but say they would have traveled if the economy were better. The remainder are traveling but not cutting costs (15%), or are not traveling and say the economy did not influence their decision (63%).
"Lower-income Americans are more likely to report altering their travel plans because of the economy, especially in terms of forgoing a trip altogether. "
These results are based on a Dec. 11-13 USA Today/Gallup poll, and indicate that 23% of Americans will be spending at least part of this holiday season away from home. The poll estimates that figure could have been 35% if the economy were in better shape.
The specific impact of the economic downturn on holiday travel is more apparent when one looks at just the 35% of Americans who can be considered "would-be travelers," including those who are traveling this year plus those who are forgoing travel because of the economy. Among this group, the majority are scaling back their travel plans by cutting down the cost of the trip (23%) or canceling it outright (34%).
Holiday travel is more common among wealthier Americans. Americans living in upper-income households (whose annual incomes are $75,000 or more) are twice as likely as lower-income Americans (whose annual incomes are under $30,000) to say they will travel during the holidays this year.
And, not surprisingly, lower-income Americans are more likely to report altering their travel plans because of the economy, especially in terms of forgoing a trip altogether. This group is twice as likely as upper-income Americans to have canceled holiday travel this year.
In addition to income, holiday travel varies by age, with younger Americans much more likely than older Americans to say they plan to travel.
While the majority of Americans will stay close to home for the holidays this year, a substantial proportion will be traveling a considerable distance. However, the poor economy is limiting holiday travel this year, with 12% of Americans saying they are forgoing travel because of the economy, and another 8% cutting the costs of their trip.
Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,025 national adults, aged 18 and older, conducted Dec. 11-13, 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on land-line telephones (for respondents with a land-line telephone) and cellular phones (for respondents who are cell-phone only).
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.