Poll: Majority prefers 'Merry Christmas' over 'Happy Holidays'
Posted on Dec 16, 2005 | by Michael Foust
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--A majority of Americans would rather hear "Merry Christmas" than "Happy Holidays" when greeted in stores and public institutions, according to a new Gallup poll.
The poll of 1,013 adults found that 62 percent of Americans say that generic greetings -- such as "Happy Holidays" and "Season's Greetings" -- are a "change for the worse." Twenty-four percent say it is a "change for the better."
In addition, 32 percent of adults say they are bothered when stores use generic holiday greetings on their displays; 68 percent say they are not bothered. By contrast, only 3 percent of adults say they are irked when stores use "Merry Christmas." The overwhelming majority -- 97 percent -- says the reference to Christmas doesn't trouble them. The poll was conducted Dec. 5-8.
"[T]he use of the generic holiday expressions does not bother most Americans in general, including most major political and religious groups examined in this survey. But substantial minorities are bothered -- enough, perhaps, to cause concern among some retailers," Gallup's Lydia Saad wrote in an online analysis.
Interestingly, only 8 percent of non-Christians say that "Merry Christmas" bothers them. Saad noted that those figures run "counter to the inclusive rationale for saying 'Happy Holidays'" in the first place.
Perhaps more than any previous Christmas, this season has seen more complaints about stores using generic holiday greetings in their advertising and in-store greetings. The pro-family group American Family Association has led the charge.
AFA dropped a boycott of Target after the retailer said it would use "Christmas" in some of its advertising and in-store signs during the rest of the season. Previously, Target was using only generic "holiday" references. AFA said nearly 700,000 people signed up online to boycott the company.
Lowe's began the Christmas season by selling "holiday trees," but reversed course when AFA and other conservatives complained, leading the retailer to issue a statement saying it would refer to them as "Christmas trees."
Wal-Mart was inundated with so many complaints about its employees' use of "Happy Holiday" greetings that it issued a statement saying "it has no policy that prohibits an associate from wishing customers 'Merry Christmas.'" A Wal-Mart spokesman said it is "fine and appropriate" for workers to use a specific Christmas greeting.
The conservative group Concerned Women for American issued a "naughty and nice" list, ranking more than 40 retailers in their use of "Christmas." Macy's, Dillard's, Sears and Hobby Lobby made the "nice" list, while Kmart, Home Depot, Kohl's and Old Navy made the "naughty" list. Wal-Mart, Lowe's and Target were on the "somewhat nice, somewhat naughty list." (The entire list can be viewed online at www.cwfa.org).
Mike Johnson, an attorney with the conservative legal group Alliance Defense Fund, said consumers can affect change at stores without the help of a lawyer.
"It's political correctness run amok, and in some of these situations it's really a political remedy more than a legal one," he told Baptist Press. "... We take our consumer dollars elsewhere, and that's how we solve those problems.... When people are willing to stand up against these ridiculous attacks, they can affect sometimes immediate change."
Mathew Staver, president of the conservative legal group Liberty Counsel, said he has seen more people take a stand for Christmas this year than in past years. Liberty Counsel, he said, was contacted by one Wal-Mart customer who planned on returning roughly $1,000 in purchases after hearing a cashier tell someone in line, "I can't greet you back with 'Merry Christmas' because I've been told I would be fired."
"A year ago people wouldn't have stood up like that, but this year they are," Staver said.
Of course, both legal groups have been heavily involved in Christmas legal battles this season when schools and governments have intruded on Christmas celebrations. The Alliance Defense Fund has its yearly "Christmas Project" and Liberty Counsel its "Friend or Foe Christmas Campaign." Both campaigns are aimed at educating people about what is and is not constitutional in the public square. ADF and Liberty Counsel provide attorneys when problems arise.
For instance, the Alliance Defense Fund got involved when teachers in Jackson County, Ga., allegedly were told not to wear "any pins, angels, crosses, or clothing" related to Christmas. The school denied there was any censorship.
Liberty Counsel intervened when employees at the Indiana State Department of Health allegedly were told that any celebrations during lunch hours had to be "holiday parties" and not "Christmas parties" and could have no religious content. The department backed off.
"I'd say in the vast majority of these cases, most of them are resolved on a simple information letter," ADF's Johnson said. "What I find is that most public officials do not have an agenda to censor the celebration of Christmas. It's just that they've been misled by groups like the ACLU -- or they've been threatened or intimated into taking these kinds of actions. When they're reminded or instructed about what the law actually says, they typically change their course pretty quickly."
Said Staver: "We do see more and more of these every year.... I think people this year have been astounded by the level of secularization of Christmas and they have responded overwhelmingly to say, 'Enough is enough.' And I think as a result of this public awareness, people are standing up and they're speaking out."