December 12, 2013

‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Holidays’?

46%

When asked about how stores should greet their customers over the holidays, 42% of Americans prefer “Merry Christmas,” 12% prefer “Happy Holidays” and 46% say it doesn’t matter.

Whether or not there is a “War on Christmas” in the United States, as some commentators believe, there’s plenty of discussion about the topic. In Texas earlier this week, for instance, a state legislator who sponsored a new law protecting traditional holiday greetings in public schools said he hoped other states would follow Texas’ example in standing “in defense of Christmas.”

Last December, the Pew Research Center asked Americans whether they prefer stores and businesses to greet their customers by saying “Merry Christmas,” or “less religious terms such as ‘Happy Holidays’ and ‘Season’s Greetings.’” The survey asked the question in two different ways to two different groups:

• A random half of respondents were asked to choose a preference between “Merry Christmas” and the less religious terms.
• The other half were asked a version that included those two options, then added “or doesn’t it matter to you?” at the end.

When the question is presented as a choice between “Merry Christmas” and the less religious terms, 57% pick “Merry Christmas” and 27% select the less religious terms. (In this instance, even without “it doesn’t matter” presented as an option, 15% volunteer that they don’t have a preference.)

But when “it doesn’t matter” is added as an option, it draws roughly the same amount of support as “Merry Christmas”; 42% say they prefer “Merry Christmas,” 12% prefer the less religious terms and 46% say it doesn’t matter. There has been almost no change since 2005, when we asked the same question.

In either case, there is a significant split between Republicans and Democrats on the question; Republicans strongly prefer the Christmas greeting. For example, when “it doesn’t matter” is included as an option, 63% of Republicans or those who lean Republican say they prefer “Merry Christmas,” while 5% choose “Season’s Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” and 32% say it doesn’t matter. Among Democrats or those who lean Democratic, 28% prefer “Merry Christmas,” 17% opt for the less religious terms and 55% say it doesn’t matter.

Category: Daily Number

Topics: Religious Beliefs and Practices

  1. Photo of Michael Lipka

    is a senior editor focusing on religion at Pew Research Center.