A new survey from Pew Research Center reveals that a majority of Americans believe that there’s been a decrease in the religious aspects of Christmas in public space, but, unlike President Donald J. Trump and Fox News, they’re not particularly mad about it.
Pew found that most Americans don’t believe the Religious Right’s claim that there is a war on Christmas. According to the survey, slightly more than half of Americans don’t care whether a business uses a “Happy Holidays” or “Merry Christmas” greeting.
Thirty-two percent said they prefer businesses to say “Merry Christmas” during the holidays – a figure that, coincidentally, tracks with Trump’s approval rating. But that number is dropping. Six years ago, 43 percent backed “Merry Christmas.”
At the Values Voter Summit in October, Trump continued beating the “war on Christmas” drum and assured the predominately privileged white evangelical crowd that they will be able to say “Merry Christmas” during his presidency. (Something that has never been banned.)
“You’re gonna be saying Merry Christmas again. … You go to the stores, and they have the red walls, and they have the snow, and they even have the sleigh and the whole thing. They don’t have Merry Christmas. They don’t have Merry Christmas. I want them to say, ‘Merry Christmas, everybody,’” he said.
Most Americans don't buy into the nonexistent "war on Christmas."
Of course, much of this is just hot air. Trump has no power to compel people to say “Merry Christmas” or force stores to use religious decorations. And the Pew survey indicates that he may be engaged in an uphill fight against cultural trends: The survey indicates that most Americans don’t perceive the secular aspects of Christmas as a threat.
“When asked directly, most respondents in the new poll say they think religious aspects of Christmas are emphasized less in American society today than in the past. But relatively few Americans both perceive this trend and are bothered by it,” the survey observes.
It adds, “Not only are some of the more religious aspects of Christmas less prominent in the public sphere, but there are signs that they are on the wane in Americans’ private lives and personal beliefs as well.”
The survey revealed that 90 percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Of those folks, 46 percent said they celebrate it as a religious holiday, while 33 percent said they celebrate it as a cultural holiday. (Nine percent said they celebrate it as both.) In 2013, the number of people who said they mark Christmas a religious holiday was higher, at 51 percent.
The survey also asked about the display of holiday symbols on government property. Thirty-seven percent of people backed such displays, even if the symbols of other faiths are not present. But 29 percent said these displays should be inclusive of all faiths, and 26 percent opposed all such displays, whether inclusive or not. The numbers are moving in the right direction. In 2014, 44 percent backed single-faith displays, and only 20 percent said all should be barred from government property.
Earlier this month, my colleague Rob Boston wrote about how there doesn’t seem to be as much hype over the “war on Christmas” this year. As it turns out, most Americans won’t bat an eye about that.
In light of these results, we’d like to say, “Season’s Greetings to you and yours!”