Depending on who you ask, America could be in the middle of a siege on Christian holidays — or nothing is happening at all.
A YouGov survey reveals that two in five (40%) voters believe that there is a war on Christmas actively taking place in the United States, while a similar number (45%) disagree. But, as with many elements of American life, whether you see a war on Christmas is divided by partisanship.
Close to three quarters of Republicans (72%) agree that Christmas is under attack. Meanwhile, most Democrats disagree (69%) that there is a war on Christmas taking place, with three in five (62%) saying they strongly disagree with this notion.
It’s worth noting that a 2018 YouGov poll found that 39% of Americans believed there was a war on Christmas while 33% disagreed. While that 2018 survey was conducted without political weighting, it shows that a similar number of Americans overall (40%) believe there is a war against Christmas today, and slightly more (45%) disagree. In other words: If there is truly a war on Christmas, it’s been around for a couple years.
America’s partisan divide is further reflected in the broader question of whether all religious groups could be perceived as under attack in the United States.
Only one in five Democrats (20%) believe Christians are persecuted for their religious holidays in the United States, compared to 68% of Republicans who say the same. Democrats are three times as likely (63%) to say that Muslims have their religious holidays attacked and twice as likely to say Jewish Americans have their holidays persecuted (41%) in comparison to Christians.
Independents tend to believe Muslims (41%) and Christians (39%) both have their religious holidays attacked.
Republicans and Democrats tend to align on whether Jews face attacks on their religious holidays: 37% of Republicans and 41% of Democrats believe that this is the case. Registered voters across the political spectrum are the least likely to believe Buddhists (15%) are persecuted for their religious holidays.
Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays
The concept of a culture war against Christmas is decades old, though former Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly and President Donald Trump are often credited with its recent resurgence. In 2017, President Trump brought the topic to national conversation when talking about how businesses had stopped referring to Christmas because it was “not politically correct.” He said that under his leadership, “we’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
About four in five Christians (85% vs 14%) and two-thirds of registered voters (65% vs 28%) do prefer to use the expression “Merry Christmas” around the holidays, rather than the secular variation, “Happy Holidays.”
But, there’s no indication that the majority of Americans who prefer to use the phrase “Merry Christmas” are being deterred from doing so. Half (49%) of those who prefer to say “Merry Christmas” say they are encouraged to do so. About one-third (36%) say they are not encouraged or discouraged from using this greeting, and only one in nine (11%) say they are actively discouraged from saying “Merry Christmas.”
And though Republicans are the most likely to believe that there is an ongoing war on Christmas, a majority (56%) say they are very or somewhat encouraged to say, “Merry Christmas.” Just 17% say they are discouraged from using the more religious greeting.
How COVID-19 is impacting Christmas
Even though America’s perception of a war on Christmas has not changed significantly since 2018, it is impossible to not consider that the perception of an attack on Christmas takes place under the threat of COVID-19's spread across the country. Facing record-breaking cases, the CDC has asked Americans to not travel or gather with individuals outside their household during the holiday season.
A majority of Republicans (57%) consider this recommendation to be an attack on religious freedom, though two-thirds of registered voters (66%) and nearly nine in 10 Democrats (89%) say it is not.
See the toplines and crosstabs from this YouGov Direct Poll
Methodology: This YouGov Direct Poll using a nationally representative sample of 1,200 registered voters interviewed online on December 5, 2020, between 10:00 a.m. and 12:04 p.m. EST. Data were weighted according to age, gender, race, education, and 2016 presidential vote to be nationally representative. The margin of error is approximately 3.4% for the overall sample.