In the 'Happy Holidays' v 'Merry Christmas' debate – the Midwest prefers to be merry

Midwesterners prefer their stores to say "Merry Christmas."
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'Merry Christmas' v 'Happy Holidays,' it's the debate that will probably never end.

But a poll that was analyzed by FiveThirtyEight shows that preference for seasonal greetings isn't just a matter of religious v secular, but it is also regional and political too.

After a poll carried out the Public Religion Research Institute asked people whether American retailers should greet customers with "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" rather than "Merry Christmas," FiveThirtyEight broke down the results by region.

In doing this, it found the Midwest exhibits the biggest preference for "Merry Christmas," with a net 11 percent in favor of the traditional, religious greeting. The western U.S. preferred this too, while the east coast and southern U.S. favor "Happy Holidays."

The analysis found that evangelicals heavily prefer "Merry Christmas," so it's not surprising that some of the more religious states in so-called "flyover country" prefer this greeting.

It's surprising that the Bible Belt south leans toward the secular greeting, though FiveThirtyEight says this is because the southern black population tend to prefer "Happy Holidays" despite being highly religious.

Political lines separate too, with Republicans preferring Merry Christmas at a higher rate than even evangelical Christians (70 percent to 62 percent).

Another interesting finding is that non-religious people in less religious states such as Oregon actually prefer to say "Merry Christmas," and this is because "social stakes are low."

"Christmas is not an entre to conversations about what church you attend, but more about presents, ugly sweaters and Santa," the website says.

During his campaign, Donald Trump said: "If I become president, we’re gonna be saying Merry Christmas at every store … You can leave happy holidays at the corner."

FiveThirtyEight however concludes that based on the data the "War on Christmas" is not a national one, but rather a series of "local skirmishes."

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