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

And just in time for the holidays—Democrats more than twice as likely as Republicans to “unfriend” over political posts

WASHINGTON—As President-elect Donald Trump promises the country will “start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again,” a survey released today finds Americans at odds over the appropriate holiday greeting. Overall, Americans are roughly divided over whether stores and businesses should greet customers with “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” out of respect for people of different religious faiths (47 percent) or whether they should use the explicitly Christian “Merry Christmas” greeting (46 percent). Republicans and Democrats hold polar opposite views: 66 percent of Democrats say stores should use the “Happy Holidays” greeting, while 67 percent of Republicans say stores should exclusively say “Merry Christmas.”

The nonpartisan PRRI conducted the survey among 1,004 adults between December 7-11, 2016. The survey gauges which holidays Americans are celebrating this December, perceptions of Christmas’ religiosity among those who celebrate it, and how the presidential election is impacting Americans’ social relationships and holiday plans.

The survey also found stark religious divides on holiday greetings, with majorities of white evangelicals (65 percent) and Catholics (58 percent) preferring businesses greet patrons with “Merry Christmas,” and majorities of non-white Protestants (56 percent) and the religiously unaffiliated (58 percent) saying stores should say “Happy Holidays.”

War on Christmas?

“Americans are still celebrating Christmas in huge numbers—89 percent—but we’ve seen a significant shift in how the holiday is celebrated,” says PRRI Research Director Daniel Cox. “Compared to just six years ago, fewer Americans are celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday. This is particularly true for younger Americans celebrating Christmas—more than one-third say it is not that religious a holiday for them.”

Today, more than four in ten (43 percent) Americans who are celebrating Christmas1 report that for them, it is a strongly religious holiday, while 29 percent say it is a somewhat religious holiday. In contrast, 27 percent say their celebration of the holiday is not too religious. This represents a ten-point jump from 2010, when 17 percent of Americans said their celebration of Christmas was “not too religious.”2

Family, Politics, and the Holidays

“The survey also found evidence of significant fallout from the election among personal relationships,” says PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones. “Beleaguered Democrats were significantly more likely than Republicans to report that they unfriended someone on social media or planned to avoid certain relatives during the holidays because of politics.”

More than one in ten (13 percent) Americans say they blocked, unfriended, or stopped following someone on social media because of what they posted about politics. Democrats are more than twice as likely as Republicans to report unfriending someone over politics (24 percent vs. 9 percent), and that number rises even more among women. Three in ten (30 percent) Democratic women say they removed someone from a social network because of a political view.

Despite the contentious nature of the 2016 presidential election, only 16 percent of Americans report that their family argued about politics or the election over the Thanksgiving holiday. And while only five percent of Americans say they are planning on spending less time with certain family members because of their political views, Democrats (10 percent) are more likely than Republicans (2 percent) to say they are avoiding certain family members this holiday season because of their political views.

The topline questionnaire, full methodology, and additional findings and analysis can be found here: https://www.prri.org/research/poll-post-election-holiday-war-christmas/.


The PRRI December 2016 survey was made possible by a generous grant from The Nathan Cummings Foundation and The Ford Foundation. Results of the survey were based on bilingual (Spanish and English) RDD telephone interviews conducted between December 7, 2016, and December 11, 2016, by professional interviewers under the direction of SSRS. Interviews were conducted among a random sample of 1,004 adults 18 years of age or older living in the United States (615 respondents were interviewed on a cell phone). The margin of error for the survey is +/- 3.6 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. The design effect for the survey is 1.4.

PRRI is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan organization specializing in research at the intersection of religion, values, and public life.


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

Gallup/CNN/USA Today Poll, December 2010.