AP Poll: Santa Claus Endures in America

The Associated Press
Saturday, December 23, 2006; 5:48 AM

WASHINGTON -- Santa has lots going against him _ school-yard rumors, older brothers who think they know the deal and tattle to the young ones, errant price tags, the tell-all Internet and so many Made in China labels it seems the North Pole has outsourced to Asia. Humbuggers everywhere. But no worries. It's a wonderful life for Santa.

An AP-AOL News poll finds him to be an enduring giant in the lives of Americans.

Fully 86 percent in the poll believed in Santa as a child. And despite the multiethnic nature of the country, more than 60 percent of those with children at home consider Santa important in their holiday celebrations now.

That's an approval rating President Bush and most in Congress could only dream about these days. (If Santa were a politician, Catholics and the nonreligious would be his base.)

Among the findings:

_Santa is important to 60 percent of Catholics, 51 percent of those without a religious affiliation and 47 percent of Protestants, when households both with and without children are surveyed.

_Nearly half, 47 percent, said Santa detracts from the religious significance of Christmas; over one-third, 36 percent, said he enhances the religious nature of the holiday.

_91 percent of whites believed in Santa as a child; 72 percent of minorities did. One quarter of those now living in households with incomes under $25,000 did not believe in Santa.

_An overwhelming majority, across nearly all backgrounds and religious beliefs, say they believe in angels _ 81 percent. Belief in angels is shared by 57 percent of those who say they have no religious affiliation. Nearly all white evangelical Christians, 97 percent, share this belief.

Somehow, the tradition has survived all that challenges tradition.

Carl Anderson studied Santa beliefs as a doctoral student 20 years ago, looking at the phenomenon then and a century earlier. A child psychologist with a long, real beard, he's since put in 18 Christmases at the Dallas NorthPark Center absorbing the wide-eyed wishes of little ones.

So what's new, Santa?

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© 2006 The Associated Press