With winter holidays nearly here, YouGov asked Americans about how they’ll be spending the festive period, whether they’re shopping for presents, and their travel plans. And a separate Christmas-focused poll asked Americans about Santa: whether they believed in him, what he teaches children, and what political party he would belong to.
Among Americans planning to give gifts for the holiday, 25% are worried that the gifts they want to give will not be available due to supply chain shortages.
But supply chain worries — or inflation or any other economic concerns — don’t appear to have dissuaded Americans from gift-giving altogether, as 84% of those who celebrate a winter holiday said they would be buying gifts for the holidays this year.
When this survey was conducted December 1 – 5, 2022, four in five (81%) Americans who are giving gifts this year had already done at least some of their holiday shopping. Some (16%) had already completed all of their holiday shopping.
If you’re one of the people still doing some gift shopping, here’s some intel: 50% of Americans say they’d prefer to get a gift that’s a surprise, rather than something they asked for; 32% would prefer you stick to their list.
One in five (21%) Americans celebrating a winter holiday will be traveling this holiday season. People between the ages of 30 and 44 are most likely to be traveling, at 32%. Fewer people who are 45 and older (16%) plan to travel for the holidays.
Among Americans who will be traveling to celebrate the holidays, most (72%) are driving to their destination as at least part of their journey. One-third (32%) will travel by plane, and relatively few will take the train (11%) or a boat (5%).
Besides traveling to spend time with friends or family, there are plenty of other things Americans will do to celebrate the holiday season. More than two-thirds say exchanging presents (69%), listening to Christmas music (69%), and watching a Christmas movie (68%) is on the agenda this season. Majorities also say that they plan to, or already have done, the following: look at Christmas lights (65%), drink hot cocoa (61%), decorate a Christmas tree (61%), and put up Christmas lights (54%). Slightly fewer will hang a wreath on their door (49%), bake Christmas cookies (47%), send family holiday cards (47%), or donate to charity (46%). (The results were based on asking each respondent about a random sample of 25 potential activities to reduce the overall length of the questionnaire.)
Among parents of children under 18, seven in 10 say that Santa Claus is an important part of their celebration, with 38% classifying it as “very important.” (That's slightly higher than the 65% of parents of children under 18 who said the same in response to a 2011 poll question that inspired ours, from the Associated Press-GfK via the Roper Center.) Among people who don’t have children under 18, 34% consider Santa a somewhat or very important part of their holiday.
Santa traditions persist for many: People who grew up with Santa as part of their celebration are more likely to consider him an important part of their holiday season today. Among people who say that their parents or guardians pretended that Santa visited their home when they were children, 48% say Santa plays an important role in their holiday celebrations. Among those who didn’t grow up with the idea that Santa was visiting their house, fewer (25%) consider him an important part of the festivities.
Two-thirds (65%) of parents of children under 18 say at least one of their children believes in Santa Claus. About the same share (66%) say they plan to pretend that Santa visited their home.
Which Santa traditions will kids be participating in this year? Two-thirds (66%) of parents of children under 18 say their children will be hanging up a stocking for Santa to fill. Over half (54%) say their children will leave out cookies and milk for Santa, and 52% will visit Santa in-person at a mall or other holiday event. Slightly fewer say their children will write a letter to Santa asking for gifts (48%) or watch his progress on Christmas Eve (41%).
Three-quarters of Americans (76%) say that they believed in Santa Claus as a child. But at some point, the truth comes out. Almost one-quarter (23%) stopped believing in him when they were 7 or younger. Another 10% say they stopped believing at 8 years old and 7% stopped believing when they were 9. Nine percent stopped believing in Santa when they were 10 years old. One in four (25%) aren't sure if they ever believed – or when they stopped believing. Another 14% say they never believed in Santa Claus in the first place.
What’s the maximum acceptable age for a child to believe in Santa Claus, according to Americans? Close to one in five (17%) think the maximum acceptable age for a child to believe in Santa is 7 or younger. Another 8% think it’s 8 years old, 6% say it is 9 years old, and 12% say it is 10 years old.
How did Americans come to realize Santa isn't real? The largest share (41%) of people who ever believed in him say that they figured it out on their own. Fewer say they found out from a parent (12%), a sibling (12%), or a friend (10%). (This question was inspired by one from a 1993 ABC News/The Washington Post Poll found via the Roper Center; at the time just 23% of Americans said they figured out the truth about Santa on their own while 24% learned from a friend.)
When they discovered the truth, half say they were very (20%) or somewhat (30%) disappointed. Another 23% say they were not very disappointed to learn the truth, and 13% say they were not at all disappointed.
While about two-thirds (69%) of Americans say they’ve never told someone who believed in Santa that he didn’t exist, 19% say they have. For some, it might have been because they think Santa plays a negative role in children’s lives. Four in 10 (42%) agree that teaching children to believe in Santa promotes materialism and a focus on receiving presents. Slightly fewer (38%) think teaching children about Santa detracts from the true religious meaning of Christmas, and 33% say it reinforces stereotypes by often portraying Santa as a white man.
However, more Americans agree with positive statements about Santa. Majorities agree that teaching children to believe in Santa creates a fun and magical holiday experience (75%) and creates an opportunity for family bonding and shared memories (75%). Majorities also say that believing in Santa teaches the values of giving and generosity (69%) and the importance of being good and following the rules (68%).
(These findings may be affected by a common survey-respondent tendency to select "agree" over "disagree," but a series of agree-disagree questions on the same topic can be useful for comparisons across statements and subgroups.)
And what political party do Americans think Santa would support? The most common answer is Independent, at 32%. Fewer (24%) think Santa would be a Democrat, and 19% say he would be a Republican.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a common preference is for Santa to share people's own political affiliation. More than half (54%) of Democrats think Santa would support Democrats, 50% of Independents think he’d back Independents, and 50% of Republicans think he'd lean Republican.
There are also political differences on the question of whether or not there is a war on Christmas in the United States today. Among U.S. adult citizens, 39% agree there is a war on Christmas, while about as many disagree (37%). Republicans (59%) are more likely than Independents (35%) and Democrats (25%) to agree that there is currently a war on Christmas in the U.S.
— Taylor Orth and Linley Sanders contributed to this article
See the results for these YouGov polls:
Methodology: The results are based on two separate surveys conducted from December 1 - 5, 2022 and December 6 - 12, 2022, with each survey conducted among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample on the December 1 - 5, 2022 survey is approximately 3%; on the December 6 - 12, 2022 it is approximately 4%.
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