While society openly debates the value of religion a new poll by Pew Research indicates that church still resides top of mind during the key holiday periods of Christmas and Easter.
More Americans search for “church” around Easter than at any other time, with the Christmas season usually ranking second, according to Google Trends data between 2004 and 2013. Google’s Trends tool measures the popularity of a search term relative to all searches in the United States. Data are reported on a scale from 0 to 100.
This is interesting in light of other studies that suggest that Christmas in particular is becoming more and more secular and is no longer viewed by many as a religious holiday. The December 2013 poll caused an uproar in social media by some who view the results of that survey as skewed.
“We found that December poll by Public Religion Research Institute a bit jarring, too.” said Jeff Westover, of My Merry Christmas.com, who has commissioned similar polls tracking attitudes about Christmas in particular. “While we’ve seen a decline in sacred-based observance of Christmas we’re far from seeing the majority view Christmas in a purely secular way. In fact, even their own poll showed that more than 70 percent of Americans would have religious elements as part of their Christmas celebration. But the results were so skewed and highlighted by the report writers and by the media especially that all anyone heard was how secular Christmas is becoming. And that’s just not true.”
The importance of online metrics in determining what people really think is quickly becoming a factor in judging poll results. Online behavior is user driven in terms of search. When someone clicks on a link or responds to a worded poll question a number of variables can influence results. Search is considered much more indicative of true thinking because users determine what is typed into a search engine.
“Religion, politics and commerce drives most polls relative to Christmas,” Westover noted. “We’ve learned this in conducting our own surveys over the years. So many different agendas claim Christmas that who people perceive are asking the questions goes more into the results than how they answer. And that’s because Christmas has almost during our entire history as a nation been both a sacred and a secular observance. Christmas was never recognized formally by the U.S. government as a religious holiday. It came about because of a secular concern, whether or not federal workers got the day off. Read that proclamation making Christmas a holiday. It is in stark contrast to the declarations of the same decade making Thanksgiving a holiday. Easter is purely religious, despite all the bunnies and grass and eggs and baskets out there. There are few Easter commercials, no War on Easter, absolutely zero political influence, pull or drag on Easter. Christmas is claimed by all those agendas and as such it muddles responses. These results based on Internet searches are very telling and I suspect more honest of what really drives folks around Christmas and Easter.”