Most Americans believe there is a ‘war on Christmas’ going on.
In less than a week’s time, Americans all over the country will celebrate Christmas day. Though the exact meaning of Christmas has long been controversial, the modern debate over a war on Christmas began in 2004 when Bill O’Reilly presented a show on Fox News focusing on the increasingly secular nature of Christmas. This year the controversy over Christmas has centred on the efforts of atheist groups to erect ‘Festivus’ poles next to nativity scenes put in place by public authorities.
The latest research from YouGov shows that most Americans (51%) believe that there is a war on Christmas going on, while 32% do not. There is a noticeable partisan divide on this issue, with most Democrats (52%) saying that there is not a war on Christmas and most Independents (60%) and Republicans (70%) saying that there is.
Traditionally, one of the major aspects of the war on Christmas controversy is the increasingly widespread usage of ‘Happy Holidays’ as a greeting instead of ‘Merry Christmas’. Supporters of ‘Happy Holidays’ have said that it is more inclusive, as it includes other religious holidays, such as Hannukah, which take place towards the end of the year. 72% of Americans prefer to use ‘Merry Christmas’ instead, but support for ‘Happy Holidays’ is highest in the Northeast (31%).
The display of nativity scenes on public grounds is another major battleground, with secular groups and civil liberties groups supportive of the separation of church and state often seeking to prevent religious displays on public property or, alternatively, fighting to ensure that other religious displays can also be placed on public land. The vast majority of Americans (79%) think that nativity scenes should be allowed to be displayed on public grounds – 3% higher than the proportion of Americans who think that secular holiday scenes should be allowed.