December 20, 2013 | By Dina Smeltz

Battle Over Holiday Greetings

HO HO HO.  Here's one for the holidays.

A Public Religion Research Institute survey conducted in early December found that half of Americans (49%)  think that stores and businesses should greet their customers with “happy holidays” or “season’s greetings” instead of “merry Christmas” out of respect for people of different faiths. This percentage is a slight increase from December 2010, when 44% preferred that businesses use less-religious greetings. But a sizable minority disagree (43%) and prefer the term "merry Christmas."

Like so many issues in America, there are political and age differences in these views. A majority of Republicans (61%) choose "merry Christmas" while a majority of Democrats (58%) prefer the non-religious salutations.  Likewise, two in three among those under 29 favor a non-religious greeting compared to just four in ten among those 65 and older.

The survey includes many other questions about whether people celebrate the winter holidays in a religious context, what type of activities they do to celebrate, how much they plan to spend on gifts and whether they donate or volunteer as a way to mark the holiday.

According to an article in Religious News Service, the poll shows that Americans increasingly see Christmas as "more tinsel than gospel truth." Yet, one of the most interesting findings is that nearly half (49%) of Americans say they believe the story of Christmas –"that is, the virgin birth, the angelic proclamation to the shepherds, the star of Bethlehem, and the wise men from the East" – is historically accurate. On the other hand, many (40%) believe it is "a theological story to affirm faith in Jesus Christ." Roughly 1-in-10 (11%) Americans say they are not sure.

It's no surprise that those who are religiously unaffiliated tend to say the Christmas story is a theological parable (68%). Majorities of Christians believe that the story is historically accurate, including  eight-in-ten white evangelical Protestants (80%), about six in ten minority Protestants (62%) and white mainline (56%) Protestants, and a bare majority of Catholics (51%).

Sorry, they didn't ask about Rudolph.

Best wishes for a happy, merry, prosperous, and bright new year from Running Numbers.

About

The Chicago Council on Global Affairs highlights critical shifts in American public thinking on US foreign policy through public opinion surveys and research conducted under the Lester Crown Center on US Foreign Policy. 

The annual Chicago Council Survey, first conducted in 1974, is a valuable resource for policymakers, academics, media, and the general public. The Council also surveys American leaders in government, business, academia, think tanks, and religious organizations biennially to compare trends in their thinking with overall trends. And collaborating with partner organizations, the survey team periodically conducts parallel surveys of public opinion in other regions of the world to compare with US public opinion. 

The Running Numbers blog features regular commentary and analysis from the Council’s public opinion and US foreign policy research team, including a series of flash polls of a select group of foreign policy experts to assess their opinions on critical foreign policy topics driving the news.

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