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What do the public and stores feel about the "wars?"

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How does the general population feel about greetings?

The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press is "... an independent public opinion survey research project that studies attitudes toward the press, politics and public policy issues. It is best known for regular national surveys that measure public attentiveness to major news stories, and for polling that charts trends in values and fundamental political and social attitudes." 2 They frequently conduct public opinion surveys on matters related to religion. 2

On 2005-DEC-7 to 11, a random nationwide survey was taken among 1,502 adults. This gives a margin of error of ~+mn~3%.

When asked: "Would you prefer if stores and businesses greet their customers by saying "Merry Christmas" OR if stores and businesses use less religious terms such as "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" the results were:

bullet 60% preferred "Merry Christmas"
bullet 23% preferred less religious greeting
bullet 17% said that it doesn't matter.

However when asked the same question but with a third option "OR doesn't it matter to you" the results were:

bullet 45% said that it doesn't matter.
bullet 42% preferred "Merry Christmas"
bullet 12% preferred a less religious greeting.

In addition:

bullet Only among persons aged 65 or over does a majority (64%) prefer "Merry Christmas."
bullet Among those aged 18 to 29, only 28% preferred "Merry Christmas" while 59% didn't care.
bullet 64% of secularists didn't care.
bullet 73% of Evangelicals preferred "Merry Christmas." 3

This appears to be an excellent example of how subtle wording of the question might influence the answer. The pollsters gave two alternatives: a Christian greeting and a greeting described as "less religious." Americans tend to take their religion seriously, so that an option called "less religious" may well turn off many subjects. One wonders what the results would be if the question asked was:

"Would you prefer if stores and businesses greet their customers with:

bullet A specifically Christian greeting, like "Merry Christmas" OR
bullet A more inclusive term that included Christians, Jews, and followers of other religions, such as "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings," OR
bullet Doesn't it matter to you"

Unfortunately, we will never know.

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How does the general population feel about Christmas displays on public property?

A second series of questions was included in the above survey. It is related to Christmas symbols displayed on public property. This would typically refer to a municipal or public school display. Results included:

bullet 83% believed that Christmas displays should be allowed.
bullet Among white Evangelicals, this was 95%; white Catholics: 91%; white mainline Christians: 83%; secularists: 63%.
bullet 11% said that they should not be allowed.
bullet 6% said that it doesn't matter or had no opinion.

Pew Research commented:

"There is less support, however, if Christmas symbols are displayed alone on public property:

bullet Fewer than half (44%) of Americans say such Christmas-only displays should be allowed, while
bullet 27% say that Christmas symbols should only be allowed if Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and other symbols are also displayed, and
bullet 12% say it does not matter or express no opinion."

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What are the stores doing?

The sponsors of this web site, Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance (OCRT) decided to sample store displays. Because we have limited personnel and almost non-existent funding, we limited ourselves to shopping centers in Watertown, Syracuse and Rochester, NY. We realize that this sampling will probably not be representative of the U.S. as a whole. However, if we repeat the survey on a yearly basis, we might be able to sense trends. We hope to post the information by 2007-DEC-26.

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References used:

  1. Robert Wuthnow, "America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity," Princeton University Press, (2007). Read reviews or order this book safely from online book store
  2. "The Center & Its Projects," Pew Research Center, at:
  3. "83% support Christmas displays in Public," Pew Research Center, at:

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Site navigation:

Home > Religious information > Christmas > Conflict > here

Home > Christianity > Beliefs, practices, etc > Holy days > Christmas > Conflict > here

Home > Religious hatred & conflicts > Specific conflicts > Xmas conflict > here

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Copyright 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally posted: 2007-DEC-05
Latest update: 2007-DEC-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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