What do the public and stores feel about the "wars?"
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.
On 2005-DEC-7 to 11, a random nationwide survey was taken among 1,502 adults.
This gives a margin of error of ±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
|60% preferred "Merry Christmas"|
|23% preferred less religious greeting|
|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:
|45% said that it doesn't matter.|
|42% preferred "Merry Christmas"|
|12% preferred a less religious greeting.|
|Only among persons aged 65 or over does a majority
(64%) prefer "Merry Christmas."|
|Among those aged 18 to 29, only 28% preferred "Merry
Christmas" while 59% didn't care.|
|64% of secularists didn't care.|
|73% of Evangelicals preferred "Merry Christmas."
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
|A specifically Christian greeting, like "Merry
Christmas" OR |
|A more inclusive term that included Christians, Jews,
and followers of other religions, such as "Happy Holidays" or "Season's
Greetings," OR |
|Doesn't it matter to you"|
Unfortunately, we will never know.
How does the general population feel about Christmas displays on public
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:
|83% believed that Christmas displays should be allowed.|
|Among white Evangelicals, this was 95%; white Catholics: 91%; white
mainline Christians: 83%; secularists: 63%.|
|11% said that they should not be allowed.|
|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:
|Fewer than half (44%) of Americans say such Christmas-only displays
should be allowed, while |
|27% say that Christmas symbols should only be allowed if Hanukkah,
Kwanzaa, and other symbols are also displayed, and |
|12% say it does not matter or express no opinion." |
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
- Robert Wuthnow, "America and the Challenges of Religious Diversity,"
Princeton University Press, (2007).
Read reviews or order this book safely from Amazon.com online book store
- "The Center & Its Projects," Pew Research Center, at: http://pewresearch.org/about/projects/
- "83% support Christmas displays in Public," Pew Research Center, at: http://pewresearch.org/
Copyright © 2007 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally posted: 2007-DEC-05
Latest update: 2007-DEC-05
Author: B.A. Robinson