With Christmas right around the corner, we wanted to wrap up our 200th poll press releases with a little bit of holiday fun! We polled New Jerseyans on the “Merry Christmas” versus “Happy Holidays” question asked a few times over the years by Pew Research Center, as well as about New Year’s resolutions for 2016 (a topic we ourselves asked back in 2012). Turns out, NJers mostly do not care which seasonal greeting is used, and resolutions center around health, wealth, and success.
So enjoy some holiday statistics, and Happy Holidays (or Merry Christmas or Season’s Greetings – take your pick!) from the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll!
The full text of the release is below. Click here for a PDF of the release with text, questions, and tables.
‘MERRY CHRISTMAS’ OR ‘HAPPY HOLIDAYS?’ NEW JERSEYANS DON’T CARE
Health tops residents’ New Year’s resolutions for 2016
NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. – ‘Tis the season in the Garden State, and as New Jerseyans fit in last-minute holiday shopping, 49 percent do not care how they are greeted by merchants, according to the latest Rutgers-Eagleton Poll.
But about one-third still prefer hearing “Merry Christmas,” while 19 percent want something less religious, like “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.”
“Almost nine in 10 New Jerseyans celebrate Christmas, but residents without a preference or who want a more generic greeting outnumber those who want ‘Merry Christmas’ by more than 2 to 1,” said Ashley Koning, assistant director of the Eagleton Center for Public Interest Polling at Rutgers University. “And though Garden Staters mostly resemble the rest of the country on holiday greeting preferences as we see in national polling, they are slightly less likely than other Americans to choose ‘Merry Christmas’ and are more likely to opt for something less religious.”
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, one third of New Jerseyans are procrastinators and have not made a resolution yet. Among those who have, health- and fitness-related promises top the list. Eleven percent mention staying or getting healthy, another 8 percent specify something about losing weight, and 3 percent want to strive for good health, in general. Three percent also hope to quit smoking.
Five percent have made a resolution about money – spending less, as well as saving or making more – while another 5 percent say something about becoming more successful. Other resolutions include becoming a better person (7 percent) and achieving peace and happiness (3 percent).
Results are from a statewide poll of 843 adults contacted by live callers on both landlines and cell phones from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6, 2015. The sample has a margin of error of +/-3.8 percentage points. Interviews were done in English and, when requested, Spanish.
Much like the larger debate about a “war on Christmas,” preferences on seasonal greetings become entangled in politics during the holidays each year. Unlike New Jerseyans as a whole, most Republicans prefer the more religious greeting of “Merry Christmas,” at 49 percent. Just 10 percent of this group chooses “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” Democrats and independents feel just the opposite. Among Democrats, 22 percent prefer “Merry Christmas” and 29 percent want something less religious. Independents feel similarly, though a bit more likely than Democrats to choose “Merry Christmas” (at 32 percent) and less likely to choose “Happy Holidays” (at 15 percent).
Above all, Democrats and independents say it does not matter (49 percent and 52 percent, respectively); even 41 percent of Republicans say this.
Ideological conservatives are the most likely of all demographics to prefer “Merry Christmas” and the only group that reaches a majority: 55 percent side with this greeting, while only 9 percent choose “Happy Holidays” and 36 percent have no strong feeling either way. They are more than three times as likely as liberals and almost twice as likely as moderates to prefer the more religious phrase. Liberals and moderates, on the other hand, look much like Democrats and independents.
Religion has only a slight impact on preferences. Catholics and Protestants in the state are a bit more likely than New Jerseyans as a whole, and much more likely than residents of other religious affiliations, to want stores to use “Merry Christmas” – 40 percent of Catholics and 42 percent of Protestants do, compared to just 19 percent of those from other religions. Similarly, 42 percent of born-again Christians feel the same. Nevertheless, more than four in 10 of each are indifferent.
Even half of those who celebrate Christmas have no preference; another 35 percent would prefer the more religious greeting, while 17 percent say they would actually prefer something less religious.
White residents are 12 points more likely to prefer “Merry Christmas” than non-white residents, though half of both groups are indifferent. Residents 50 years and older are almost four times as likely (at about 40 percent) to prefer the more religious greeting than millennials (at just 11 percent). Millennials are the most indifferent, with 60 percent saying it does not matter to them which greeting is used.
Eighty-eight percent of New Jerseyans say they celebrate Christmas, 9 percent celebrate Hanukah, 2 percent Kwanza, 1 percent each celebrate Ramadan and Diwali, and 8 percent celebrate something else. Four percent of residents do not celebrate anything.
Wishes for health, wealth, and success in the New Year
New Jerseyans continue to make health, fitness, and finances top priorities, similar to when the Rutgers-Eagleton Poll last asked about resolutions in 2012. While these topics remain most prevalent among New Jerseyans overall, some disparities between groups do emerge.
While gender differences are not significant when it comes to New Year’s resolutions, men are a bit more likely than women to mention something about money and staying or getting healthy, while women are slightly more likely to specify losing weight.
Non-white residents’ resolutions are focused more on money issues and achieving success in the new year compared to white residents.
Age has a definite impact on resolutions. Millennials are most concerned with being successful in 2016 (at 16 percent) – a vast difference from older residents, for which this type of resolution barely registers. New Jerseyans under 50 years old are also much more likely than those over 50 to mention something about money.
Residents of all ages are concerned about getting and staying healthy, though 50-64 year olds are slightly more likely to say this as their resolution and also most likely to specifically have a resolution about losing weight.
New Jerseyans in more affluent households are more likely to mention health and fitness than those in households making less than $50,000 annually. Those in households making $150,000 or more are less likely than others to mention a resolution that involves money.
“Garden Staters mention a wide range of New Year’s resolutions, including uplifting things like ‘creating joy’ and ‘peace on earth,” said Koning. “But not all resolutions are rosy. Others imply a dissatisfaction with life in New Jersey and state politics: a handful of residents mention a desire to move out of the state, and one individual even wished for Gov. Chris Christie to end his presidential campaign and come back home to govern.”