PRINCETON, NJ -- As families gather around the table this holiday season, Gallup finds that family dining is a part of everyday life for the majority of U.S. parents, and that it hasn't diminished much in recent years. Fifty-three percent of adults with children younger than 18 say their family eats dinner together at home six or seven nights a week. The average 5.1 dinners that families share each week is down slightly from 5.4 in 1997, but unchanged from 2001.
Since 1997, slightly more than half of parents have told Gallup they eat dinner together as a family at least six times per week, including between 35% and 38% saying they do so all seven days. However, there has been a slight increase in the percentage eating together less than four times per week; this was 16% in 1997, but jumped to 22% by 2001 and has remained at that level since.
While restaurants abound in the U.S., Americans report dining out only occasionally, which makes sense given their high reported frequency of eating at home. Gallup estimates from 2003 to 2008 found all U.S. adults reporting they eat dinner out at a restaurant 1.2 to 1.4 times per week, on average.
Marriage Associated With More Family Dining; Full Employment With Less
A review of combined Gallup data since 2001 finds married parents report eating dinner at home with their families more often than unmarried ones. Married parents report that their family eats 5.3 dinners at home weekly, on average, compared with 4.8 dinners weekly among those who are not married.
At the same time, parents who work full time dine slightly less frequently with their families than those who work part time or who don't work (5.0 dinners vs. 5.3). Also, parents who are aged 35 and older enjoy fewer family dinners than do younger parents (5.0 dinners vs. 5.3, respectively).
Although family dining may seem like a throwback to more conservative social times, the data do not bear that out. Self-professed liberals report dining with their families about as frequently as moderates and conservatives do. Also, parents who seldom or never attend religious services are slightly more likely than their religious counterparts to engage in family dinners.
The dining table may be larger at holiday celebrations such as Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas than at other times, with more generations than usual represented, but the practice of families gathering at dinnertime to share a meal remains a routine part of American parents' daily lives. As younger parents are even a little more likely than older ones to regularly eat dinner as a family, this seemingly traditional aspect of American life will likely continue for the foreseeable future.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Dec. 5-8, 2013, with a random sample of 1,031 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
For results based on the sample of -- 212-- parents of children under age 18, the margin of sampling error is ±9 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by time zone within region. Landline and cellular telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, cellphone mostly, and having an unlisted landline number). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
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.
For more details on Gallup's polling methodology, visit www.gallup.com.