Shoppers Happier with “Merry Christmas,” Says Poll

"Merry Christmas" is back on the lips of many retailers greeting shoppers this holiday season — much to the delight of the 32% of those who say they're offended when a store clerk who instead uses the generic but politically correct "Happy Holidays," a new Zogby Interactive poll shows.

Last year's decision by many retailers — including retail giant Wal-Mart — to curtail the use of "Merry Christmas" for fear of offending those who don't celebrate the holiday caused a backlash from conservative Christian groups as well as consumers. Wal-Mart's change of heart this season could help bring more people into their stores — 35% of respondents said hearing "Merry Christmas" makes them more likely to shop there this season. For weekly Wal-Mart shoppers, that figure jumps to 54%. This year's poll showed opinions on holiday greetings have changed little from last year.

Zogby polling shows an overwhelming majority (95%) say they are not offended by being greeted with a "Merry Christmas" while shopping, including 98% for weekly Wal-Mart shoppers. But greet them with a "Happy Holidays," and 46% say they take offense. The Zogby Interactive poll surveyed 12,806 adults between November 21-29 and has a margin of error of +/-0.9 percentage points.

Of course, not everyone will be excited to hear more "Merry Christmas" greetings this season. One in three respondents who identified themselves as Jewish (32%) said they were upset by hearing "Merry Christmas" as were 10% of those of non-Christian faiths or who did not identify themselves with a religion. Democrats are more likely to take offense at "Merry Christmas" (8%) compared with less than 1% of Republicans and 1% of Independents.

While "Happy Holidays" is a greeting intended to appeal to everyone, retailers' efforts to avoid offending anyone may have backfired. More than half of those polled (51%) said they are bothered by store clerks who greet customers with "Happy Holidays" in an effort to help stores be politically correct. For some shoppers, a clerk who says "Happy Holidays" might as well be saying "Don't shop here" — 36% say they have avoided shopping at a store or have cut their visit short after being greeted with a "Happy Holidays" instead of a "Merry Christmas." That figure jumps to 41% for weekly Wal-Mart shoppers and 42% for those older than 65.

See the Zogby poll in their December Consumer report.

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  • Guest

    Actually, I find that I am offended more by hearing “secular” Christmas music in stores than I am by being greeted with “Happy Holidays”. Somehow songs about Santa, Rudolph, etc. have nothing to do with the real meaning of Christmas. I was so happy last week when I was shopping at Dick’s Sporting Goods and heard “Mary, Did You Know”. I told the person at the cash register to tell whomever was responsible for the choice of music that he/she made one customer VERY HAPPY that day!

  • Guest

    I’m sick of the watered-down, secular, seasonal music as well. I don’t want to spend eternity in A Winter Wonderland.
    It seems the songs that are really Christmas carols are being played as instrumentals so we can’t listen to the words.
    Happy Holy Days!

  • Guest

    Wouldn't it be nice if we would accept the greeting that is natural for the person who is giving it.  Why should a store have a policy?  As a Catholic I would like to say "Merry Christmas".  A neighbor who is just as Jewish as I am Catholic says "Happy Hanukkah", "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holiday" depending on who they are talking to.  I believe holiday comes from the Old English … Holy + Day.  I choose to receive the Happy Holiday greeting as a Happy HolyDay greeting.  Keeps me more at peace.