Only two more pillaging days left ...
... in the War on Xpesmasse, so be sure and get your licks in now before Santa sees his shadow and turns back into a pumpkin or whatever it is that he does in the off-season.
OK. The house rules specify that you can't complain about a poll just because you don't like the results, and (sampling-wise, at least) Marist runs a methodologically sound poll. What you do get to complain about is the interpretation, whether it's at the polling end or the writing end. And, of course, you can (and should) be entertained by the context: all that stuff that has to be agreed on before data can make meaning. So let's have a look:
In the annual battle over "Merry Christmas" and "Happy holidays," specificity wins out again. (The fine art of question-begging!* Your first clue is the touching belief in the "annual battle," which is a lot like believing in Santa, only easier on the milk-and-cookies budget.)
A survey released this week by the Marist Poll showed that 61 percent of Americans preferred the "Merry Christmas" greeting, against just 35 percent who thought "Happy holidays" is more appropriate. The remainder said they were unsure.
"When it comes to holiday greetings, about six in 10 Americans want to throw political correctness out the window," the Marist pollsters wrote. (Marist is the one who's cheating here. This is called "juicing and goosing" in the formal language of the "Michigan Media Law" textbook, or "lying about your results" among the plainspoken. You can't infer motive -- "throw political correctness out the window" -- from a question like "Do you think you should wish people ...?")
Now, assuming it wants to be taken seriously next campaign season, Marist might cop a plea here. It's the "lighten up" defense: Come on, this is a throwaway question in a poll about your favorite holiday movies! Bad idea. You can't execute a roomful of prisoners and then claim you weren't really playing War on Xpesmasse. Don't say the reindeer hasn't gotten his nose under the tent flaps. I can see it blinking.
The main offender here, though is the Times. From the photo with the online version of the story, it'd be fair to guess that what they're being "specific" about is a tubby Northwest European magic elf with a funny hat.** But that's not where the text is going:
... There was one significant dissenting group: youths. Americans ages 18 to 29 preferred "Happy holidays" by a margin of 55 percent to 39 percent, while every age group 30 and older favored "Merry Christmas" by margins of almost 2-to-1 or more.
Rob Schwarzwalder, senior vice president at the Family Research Council, agreed that one cause of such a gap likely is American society's increasingly irreligious culture. (Who's he agreeing with? Who said it first? And does either of you have anything to back it up?)
"The influence of a secular culture that is often hostile to Christian faith unquestionably has had an effect on younger people," he said, though he went on to elaborate that "there is much good news about today's young believers, who polls show to be more pro-life than previous generations and whose concern for those in need mirrors Christ's compassion for the downtrodden ... as we communicate truth in a winsome, clear and persuasive manner, many of our youth are listening with open minds and hearts." ("Winsome.")
... The "war on Christmas" - stories involving taking either "Christ" out of "Christmas" or "Christmas" out of the "holidays" - have become a staple of November and December news coverage in recent years.
Well, no. Actually, it haven't.*** A small band of rabid loonies can usually stitch together some manufactured outrage most years between about Nov. 15 and Dec. 24. It's sort of like the bill for all the gifts of the Twelve Days of Christmas, only without the external validity. You don't have to pay attention to it, any more than you have to pay attention to drunks who call the desk at 11:45 p.m. with photos of UFOs.
So why is it a frontpage story? Well, you could look to the concluding few paragraphs:
The coexistence of religion-specific and generic greetings was on display Wednesday at President Obama's news conference.
Because when you're the WashTimes, it really is all about the scary Kenyan Muslim socialist colored guy! There is no truce in the trenches when it comes to the War on Xpesmasse.
* Merry Christmas, Ridger!
** Works for me.
*** Even ideologues need copy editors. (The Times has actually had some good ones over the years.)