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“Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays”: Republicans and Democrats are Polar Opposites

“Merry Christmas” vs. “Happy Holidays”

As the country becomes more diverse and less religiously affiliated, Americans are divided over whether it is more appropriate for stores and businesses to greet customers with “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” instead of “Merry Christmas” out of respect for people of different religious faiths: 47% say they should, while 46% say they should not. Attitudes on this question are largely unchanged over the last six years. This issue sharply divides the public by political affiliation, religious affiliation, and age.

Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to say that stores should use more general greetings such as “Happy Holidays” (66% vs. 28%, respectively). Two-thirds (67%) of Republicans say stores and businesses should greet their customers with “Merry Christmas.” Political independents are about evenly divided with 44% preferring “Happy Holidays” and 48% preferring “Merry Christmas.”

There are stark religious divides as well. Nearly two-thirds (65%) of white evangelical Protestants and close to six in ten (58%) Catholics say stores should say “Merry Christmas” to greet customers. White mainline Protestants are closely divided over whether stores should say “Happy Holidays” (46%) or “Merry Christmas” (48%). A majority of non-white Protestants (56%) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (58%) say stores should say “Happy Holidays” out of respect for people of different faiths.

Two-thirds (67%) of young adults (age 18-29), compared to only 38% of seniors (age 65 and older), say it is better for businesses to greet customers with “Happy Holidays” as opposed to “Merry Christmas.” A majority (54%) of seniors say stores should greet patrons with “Merry Christmas” during the holiday season.

Is Christmas Becoming a Cultural Holiday?

Christmas continues to be December’s dominant holiday in terms of number of Americans celebrating it. Nearly nine in ten (89%) Americans report they will be celebrating Christmas this December, while four percent say they will be celebrating Advent, three percent say Hanukkah, three percent say winter solstice, one percent say Kwanzaa, and four percent say they will not be celebrating any holiday this month.

Although more Americans will be celebrating Christmas than any other December holiday, there are significant divisions over the degree to which the holiday is religious. More than four in ten (43%) Americans who are celebrating Christmasreport that for them, it is a strongly religious holiday, while 29% say it is a somewhat religious holiday. By contrast, more than one in four (27%) Americans celebrating Christmas say their celebration of the holiday is not too religious.

Over the last decade, the number of Americans celebrating Christmas as a non-religious holiday has increased significantly. In 2005, nearly half (49%) of Americans celebrating the holiday said it was a strongly religious holiday for them, while 32% said it is somewhat religious. Fewer than one in five (19%) of those celebrating the Christmas holiday said it was not too religious.2

However, Americans also report that the current levels of religious Christmas celebrations are similar to their experiences growing up. Four in ten (40%) Americans say that when they were growing up, their family celebrated Christmas as a strongly religious holiday. About three in ten (31%) say their family celebrated it as a somewhat religious holiday, and roughly as many (27%) say it was celebrated as a not too religious holiday.

Republicans and Democrats currently approach the Christmas holiday in significantly different ways. Among those who celebrate Christmas, Republicans are nearly twice as likely as Democrats to say they have strongly religious celebrations of Christmas (60% vs. 32%, respectively), while Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to say the holiday is not too religious (36% vs. 14%, respectively).

There is a widening partisan rift between Democrats and Republicans in the degree to which they celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday. In 2005, 60% of Republicans and nearly half (46%) of Democrats who were celebrating Christmas said it was a strongly religious holiday.

The extent to which Americans celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday differs by religious affiliation—even among Christians. Nearly three-quarters (74%) of white evangelical Protestants who are celebrating the holiday say it is strongly religious for them. Roughly half of Catholics (51%) and non-white Protestants (49%) who are celebrating Christmas also say it is strongly religious. Fewer than four in ten (39%) white mainline Protestants who are celebrating the holiday say it is strongly religious. In contrast, only 10% of religiously unaffiliated Americans who celebrate Christmas say it is strongly religious for them. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of the unaffiliated say their celebrations are not too religious.

Younger Americans are also more likely than older Americans to celebrate Christmas as a cultural holiday. A majority (52%) of seniors compared to only 30% of young adults are who celebrate the holiday say it is strongly religious for them. Conversely, young adults are about twice as likely as seniors to say it is not a religious holiday for them (36% vs. 17%, respectively).

Family, Politics and the Holidays

Talking About Politics with Family

More than seven in ten Americans report they talk about politics with their family often (43%) or sometimes (30%). More than one in four say they talk about politics rarely (17%) or never (10%). There are profound differences in the frequency with which Americans talk about politics with family members by educational attainment and more modest differences by political affiliation.

Nearly six in ten (58%) Americans with a college education say they talk about politics with their family often, compared to only one-third (33%) of those with a high school education or less.

A majority (52%) of Republicans talk with their family often about political issues compared to fewer than half of Democrats (45%) and independents (40%). Nearly one in three (32%) independents rarely or never talk with family members about politics, compared to 22% of Democrats and only 16% of Republicans.

Family Disagreements Over Politics

Despite the contentious nature of the 2016 presidential election, only 16% of Americans report that their family argued about politics or the election over the Thanksgiving holiday. However, the likelihood of disagreement varied across different families.

Americans who talk with their families more often about politics are also more likely to report family disagreement. Roughly one in five (19%) of Americans who talk about politics often with their family say that there were squabbles over the Thanksgiving holiday among family members. Only eight percent of Americans who never talk about politics with their family report disagreements.

Roughly one in five Democrats (18%) and independents (18%) say there were family disagreements about politics over the Thanksgiving holiday, compared to 12% of Republicans. The political divide is wider among those who talk with their families about politics at least sometimes.

Young adults are also more likely to report a quarrelsome Thanksgiving holiday than older Americans. More than one in five (21%) young adults say their families fought about politics compared to only 10% of seniors.

Changing Holiday Plans to Avoid Conflict

Only five percent of Americans say they are planning on spending less time with certain family members because of their political views. Democrats, however, are five times more likely than Republicans to say they are trying to avoid certain family members due to their political views (10% vs. 2%, respectively). The pattern among political independents mirrors the general population.

Blocking Friends on Social Media

Only 13% of the public say they blocked, unfriended, or stopped following someone on social media because of what they posted about politics. Again, sharp political divisions emerged in the tendency to remove people because of the political opinions they expressed.

Nearly one-quarter (24%) of Democrats say they blocked, unfriended, or stopped following someone on social media after the election because of their political posts on social media. Fewer than one in ten Republicans (9%) and independents (9%) report eliminating people from their social media circle.

Political liberals are also far more likely than conservatives to say they removed someone from their social media circle due to what they shared online (28% vs. 8%, respectively). Eleven percent of moderates say they blocked, unfollowed, or unfriended someone due to what they posted online.

There is also a substantial gender gap. Women are twice as likely as men to report removing people from their online social circle because of the political views they expressed online (18% vs. 9%, respectively). Notably, the gender gap also differs significantly across political affiliation. Three in ten (30%) Democratic women say they removed an individual from their online social network because of a political opinion they expressed, while only 14% of Democratic men reported doing this. Republican men and women are about equally as likely to say they blocked, unfollowed, or unfriended someone on social media because of political posts (10% vs. 8%, respectively).


Endnotes:

1All references to those celebrating Christmas in 2016 also include those who say they are celebrating Advent.

2Gallup/CNN/USA Today Poll, December 2005.

Recommended citation:

Jones, Robert P., and Daniel Cox. “‘Merry Christmas’ vs. ‘Happy Holidays’: Republicans and Democrats are Polar Opposites.” PRRI. 2016. http://www.prri.org/research/poll-post-election-holiday-war-christmas/

 

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