Poll: Over half of Americans have had falling out with family member

Feeling estranged from a close family member is an experience more than half of Americans have felt for themselves at some point in their lives, and for many, the rift has never been repaired. A CBS News/YouGov poll conducted this past summer shows that 56% of Americans say they have been estranged from, or had a falling out with, a close family member for an extended period of time. 

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While a majority who have had such a falling out say they did eventually reconcile, for some it took years, and many others never resolved their differences at all. Thirty-nine percent of Americans who have had a falling out with a close relative — and 21% of Americans overall — say they have had a falling out that was never really reconciled. 

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Most Americans who have had a falling out also don’t think they are the ones to blame for it. Fifty-five percent think the other person bears most of the responsibility for the estrangement, while 36% think both parties share the blame equally. But just one in 10 Americans think they, themselves, bear most of the blame. The longer it takes to reconcile (if a reconciliation happens at all), the more likely people are to cast most of the blame on the other person. 

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But even as most blame the other party, few are happy about the falling out. Most say they feel sadness when thinking about it. A quarter feels angry. And while just 15% say they feel embarrassed, most don’t feel glad or relieved about it either.

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Though most who have had a long-term estrangement say they are sad about it, a majority of Americans overall say being true to yourself and what you want is more important than maintaining ties to your family, even if it means it causes a serious falling out.  

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Those who have been through a serious falling out with a family member are the most likely to think so. Sixty-three percent of those who have had a falling out with a close family member say being true to what you want for yourself is more important than maintaining your relationship with your family, and those who have never reconciled are even more likely to take this stance. Those who have never had a long-term family rift are more divided: while 48% think being true to what you want for yourself is more important, 52% think it is more important to maintain your relationship with your family, even if it means you don’t always feel you are being true to what you want for yourself.  

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This CBS News survey was conducted by YouGov using a nationally representative sample of 2,037 U.S. adult residents interviewed between June 8-10, 2021. This sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, and education based on  the U.S. Census American Community Survey, and the U.S. Census Current Population Survey, as well as 2020 Presidential vote. The margin of error is ±2.6 points.  

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