This spring, in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States, New York began conducting a weekly poll to learn more about how the pandemic was upending our readers’ lives. Thousands of you opened up to us about the havoc this year was wreaking on your mental health, work-life balance, future plans, and more. Now, as the virus continues to spread across the country while the increasingly unpredictable and chaotic presidential campaigns play out, we’ve restarted it. This week: How you’re planning to spend Election Night and celebrate the holidays.
How would you describe your emotional state right now?
Very anxious and/or scared: 21%
Somewhat anxious and/or scared: 37%
Slightly concerned: 6%
Totally fine: 3%
Have you had COVID-19 at any time in the past seven months?
I think I may have had it but couldn’t get tested in time: 9%
Do you know anyone else who has had it?
Have you ever taken a coronavirus test?
Do you, or does anyone in your household, fear that your work puts you at significant risk of contracting the virus?
How would you rate the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic?
Reasonably fine: 2%
Just okay: 1%
An unmitigated disaster: 93%
Has the pandemic changed your decision about whom to vote for in the presidential election?
I’m still undecided: 1%
Has the pandemic changed your decision about whom to vote for in your state or local elections?
I’m still undecided: 1%
How are you planning to vote?
In person on Election Day: 14%
In person during early voting: 29%
By mail or drop-off: 52%
I’m not voting, by choice: 1%
I’m not voting, because I’m not eligible: 5%
If you’re voting early or by mail, have you voted already?
Have you experienced a furlough, job loss, or pay cut as a result of the recession?
If so, have you since returned to work, found new employment, or had your normal pay reinstated?
Has anyone in your household received unemployment benefits during the past seven months?
If so, how did the end of the $600/week federal payment affect you?
I’m struggling to cover basic necessities without it: 22%
I’m having more financial stress, but I’m able to get by: 45%
I’m doing relatively fine: 34%
Tell us about your plans for Election Night. Will you be watching the returns? If so, where and with whom?
“If we watch returns, it will be at home with my husband and daughter. My daughter, 7, wants to watch as she is interested in the process (and we canvassed for Warren in NH!). However, I have such PSTD about 2016, that I want to take an edible, get in the bath, and watch old SNL episodes. My husband wants to watch, so I suppose I can pop in and see how it’s going while I work on a puzzle.”
“Watching the returns with friends. Two of us are watching actively, the other two are cooking/baking away their anxiety and won’t pay attention until the end.”
“We have connected with neighbors who feel similarly and will be in touch with them for on-call Zoom hang outs. My partner and I will stay home and watch/read as we feel comfortable. We have serious 2016 hangover and are nervous and trying to make space for whatever feelings we might have on that night…and beyond.”
“Even though I’ve personally voted by mail, I took a day of PTO to be able to volunteer to be an Election Judge. I’ll be at the polls the entire day. I’m sure I’ll watch the results, but I don’t believe the election will be anywhere close to over on November 3rd. It’d be great if it was, but I don’t think, without a major upset for Joe Biden in somewhere like Texas, that it will be over quickly.”
“Have you read My Year of Rest and Relaxation?”
“May scroll through live commentary on 538 or something, maybe with my partner, but given that we won’t have definitive results that night I’m sparing myself the anxiety of cable news coverage.”
“My wife and I will likely check in to see if Biden’s presumed early voting lead is real. I don’t plan on staying awake until 2am drinking like four years ago.”
“Sit at home with a drink (or two), biting my nails, and flipping between The Great British Baking Show and the news.”
“I can’t even imagine watching the returns on Election Night this year after watching 2016 roll in alone in my apartment.”
“I will be making an elaborate and indulgent dinner to distract myself.”
“I live alone and plan to go off the grid and watch a very long movie – either Robert Altman’s Nashville or Spielberg’s Munich. But I can’t avoid emails and texts forever. Also, I suspect I will not be able to go entirely off the grid, and even if I don’t watch, I can expect constant updates from my family and best friend. Today, I sent an email to my doctor asking for a prescription for a couple of Valiums, explaining that I needed a sedative just for Election Night. Haven’t heard back yet, though…”
“I’ll be watching the returns with my fingers over my eyes, scary-movie style. I’m terrified.”
“I’ll be a poll worker for the first time! Hoping to stop by a friend’s house to watch the results come in.”
“I will be watching with my husband and 7-year-old daughter. We’re going to let her stay up late to watch what we hope will be a historic moment when the first Black woman is elected Vice President of the U.S.A.”
“I’m in Scotland, so I’ll be going to bed hoping against hope that you guys don’t f**k it up again.”
“In a normal year, we’d be watching the returns with about eight friends. No one is talking about doing that this year. My husband and I will probably watch at home until things start going south (i.e., Trump takes FL and OH), then we’ll probably start drinking in earnest. After that, we’ll rend our hair, clothe ourselves in buckskin, and go live in the woods somewhere for the next four years (hopefully for not longer than that).”
“I think I’ll either be feverishly taking a ballet class or hella drunk on election night. I don’t know if I can watch it as it happens …”
“DOOMSCROLLING INTO OBLIVION.”
“Taking two Benadryl and going to bed; I can’t handle the stress. (I’m in recovery, so drinking is out.)”
“Dear god, I hadn’t even thought about logistics until now. I will absolutely be watching, but not sure where/with whom. Still have a little PTSD from watching with my trans brother in 2016.”
“I will be at home with my husband and a bottle of vodka. We will have martinis if things go well and…vodka if things go badly.”
“I don’t have cable, but I may watch a live stream or follow along online. I’m not sure I can handle watching after 2016. I may have to read a book or watch a movie instead. I text and phone bank weekly and have for months. My rights and our democracy are on the line, I don’t know that my anxiety can handle watching it live.”
“No. I can’t handle the nonsense Bill Barr’s DOJ will undoubtedly throw at the election to try and disenfranchise voters in the GOP’s disgusting quest for power at all costs.”
“YouTube, alone, whiskey.”
“Years ago, my mother and I planned that she would come into the city and we would watch the returns come in at Rockefeller Center. But now there is no way to do that safely, so we will be watching from our respective homes.”
“No, having a slumber party with my sisters and not watching the news. Made that mistake four years ago.”
“I will be watching with my pod. Stress-eating and drinking is highly likely.”
“Will watch from home with teenage daughter. We’ll both be biting our nails, literally.”
“Zoom election night viewing party with friends from all over the country. Copious themed cocktails will be present and very necessary.”
Are you planning to gather with family or friends for the holidays? If so, are you taking any COVID-19 precautions?
“Daughter and son-in-law may visit over Christmas. They’re in a state from which my state allows people in without quarantining, both states having low numbers of COVID-19 cases. They plan to drive if weather permits (otherwise they’ll stay home) to avoid traveling by plane with other people. We and they are careful about wearing masks, social distancing, and avoiding crowds, as all of us have some condition that increases our risk should we contract COVID-19.”
“No, too unsafe - son is disabled, daughter is a frontline worker, brother-in-law is immunodeficient, and I have a preexisting condition.”
“I have no family anywhere near and as a cancer patient won’t risk flying. This is the loneliest year of my 77 years.”
“Yes, but less than ten of us and with social distancing and masks as appropriate. We will not see our young grandchildren who are in school or their parents if the school remains open.”
“Nope. My siblings and I are tossing around an outdoor potluck-exchange where we bring servings of something to our parents and all trade in the warmer part of the day, and then return to our Wisconsin homes to eat with our own little families. No indoor hangouts, though: We have a nephew who is immunocompromised and our dad is a cancer patient, so we aren’t messing around. And no gifts – no one has money for that this year.”
“Really need to see family on the west coast, so hoping to go for Christmas. Flying and Amtrak cross-country are both options but neither is super attractive.”
“If I do any holiday gathering, it will only be with my immediate family, and I will drive to see them. My husband recently got a new job, which increases our exposure risk, so I haven’t made any decisions yet. If I had the ability to rapid test before I visited, that would certainly be a factor.”
“Yes. Quarantining for two weeks so I can spend Thanksgiving with my Boomer parents. Depending on the outcome of the election, of course. If progressive activists need to be in the streets post-election, I’ll skip the quarantine and Thanksgiving.”
“I am not meeting with family other than family members I live with. However, my husband will visit his family out of town with no precautions. I’m not happy about this.”
“I have a small family – parents, aunt, uncle – all of whom are retired and we all self-quarantine except with each other. I am planning to drive to their town (four hours). We will grocery shop as early as possible and plan to have several meals together as a family. I have not seen them since New Year’s when I normally visit every 3-4 months.”
“Made travel plans because we thought COVID would be under control by Christmas. There is some concern about traveling and gathering at this point. Will take precautions when/if traveling but the family we are visiting is pro-Trump and anti-mask so there probably won’t be any precautions there. We’ll just try to do the best we can.”
“I might see my long-distance boyfriend around New Year’s, but it depends on if numbers spike to really dangerous NYC-in-April levels. I haven’t seen him since July, when he moved for grad school, and he lives alone, but I’m living with my parents right now and if something went wrong for any of us because of a risk I took I would feel absolutely horrible.”
“Zoom gathering probably. There’s usually at least 25 family and friends, at least three generations. This year it’s turkey pot pie for one.”
“We might have visit(s) from one or more of our four adult children, who live in other states. Haven’t seen any of them this year. We would not be inclined to take precautions, probably, except for giving them exclusive bedroom and bathroom areas that we sanitize for them. If they need for us to follow further CDC guidelines we’d happily do so.”
“Going to Tahiti for Thanksgiving (which requires a negative RT-PCR within three days of departure) and my family is visiting for Christmas. They’re driving and we’re all going to quarantine for two weeks before so we can be together inside.”
“My family is traveling from Washington, DC to Sonoma, CA to have dinner with family. Each of my children has tested positive for COVID, and thankfully all were fine. We plan to celebrate the holiday with an outdoor meal with our California family.”
“No. I missed my mother’s 70th birthday party a plane-ride away in October, won’t see her or my family for Thanksgiving or Christmas, and probably won’t drive three hours to see my in-laws either. All of those people are high risk. I wish I could see them desperately but I don’t feel safe.”
“Yes, my extended family will get together as we always do. However, as multiple family members have compromised/vulnerable health situations, we will be going to great lengths to establish a safe environment for all. This includes potentially celebrating exclusively outdoors, aided by heaters/tents/etc. as needed. And yes, I blame our current president for this.”
“Yes, I will be seeing my parents for the first time in a year. We don’t see extended family, so it will just be four of us and a dog. No one in the household is an essential worker and they live in one of the few states with improving COVID numbers. I will continue my routine of WFH, mask,
vigorous hand-washing, and won’t see anyone other than my immediate family.”
“My husband and I aren’t traveling to see any family this year due to COVID-19. We’re traveling locally to have a staycation in a rental home for Christmas, just the two of us.”
“No. This will be the bleakest and saddest holiday season in all of my 35 years. It will be the first Christmas I will not be with my parents and we are not willing to put our friends or extended circle at risk by trying to gather.”
“We’re forgoing all in-person family holidays unless the weather allows us to be fully outdoors. Starting to feel like the only people still doing this!”
“I wish my family would cancel Thanksgiving, but that’s not going to happen. My parents, in their 80s, will host at their small home. There will probably be 17-20 of us, including five college students coming back to New York from out of state.”
“No. Good excuse NOT to deal with family :)”
“We recently decided not to gather for Thanksgiving. It’ll be the first time I have not been with my family for Thanksgiving in 36 years and I am truly heartbroken by it.”
“I’m going to see my family for the first time since Christmas. My father is immunocompromised, but has said the risk is ‘worth it.’ I’m going but I’m also terrified. I’ve chosen a safer airline and we will likely not leave the house once I’m there.”
*Note: Not every respondent answered every question.