Putting Christ into Christmas

In addition to ongoing daily Christmas polling for its own advent calendar (as covered in our previous post – http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/?p=739), YouGov has conducted a more extensive survey (running to 19 questions) into attitudes to and the observance of Christmas on behalf of The Sun. Fieldwork was conducted online on 12-13 December among a representative sample of 2,092 adult Britons aged 18 and over.

12% of respondents regarded the celebration of the birth of Jesus as the most important part of Christmas. Variations by demographic sub-groups were relatively small, except for age, the proportion being only 4% for the 18-24s and rising steadily throughout each cohort to reach 19% among the over-60s.

61% cited being around family as the most significant aspect of the festival, 12% having a break from work, and 5% exchanging presents. The overall distribution of replies was not dissimilar to that obtained in a recent GfK NOP study for The Children’s Society (http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/?p=744).

Notwithstanding this rather lowly 12% putting the birth of Jesus at the heart of Christmas, 51% of adults believed the traditional story of His birth to be largely true, albeit more than two in three of them did not think it had actually happened on Christmas Day itself.

This figure of 51% equates with those saying the birth of Jesus was relevant to their Christmas in ComRes/Theos polls in 2008 and 2010 (as mentioned at http://www.brin.ac.uk/news/?p=748).

However, more nuanced questioning in the 2008 survey produced a spread of statistics for belief in the historicity of key elements of the Biblical account: 56% that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, 37% that King Herod ordered the death of male infants, 34% that Jesus was born of a virgin called Mary, and 28% that angels visited shepherds to announce Christ’s birth. 

Belief in the traditional story of the birth of Jesus in the current YouGov poll was particularly affected by age. Whereas only 37% of those between 18 and 24 were believers, 64% of the over-60s were. One-quarter of the entire sample disbelieved the story in whole or large part, while 23% rejected all the options or did not know. 

24% of interviewees said they planned to attend a church service over the Christmas season. This was only two-thirds of the level reported in the 2010 ComRes/Theos poll. Even so, it is still likely to be aspirational rather than to reflect the actual level of churchgoing, which will be much lower.

The 24% sub-divided into 5% aiming to worship on Christmas Day itself, 11% on Christmas Eve, and 8% on some other occasion around Christmas. 67% had no intentions of going to church, and 9% were uncertain what they would be doing.

The highest levels of anticipated attendance were among over-60s (32%), Scots (32%), and Conservative voters (30%). The lowest were for Labour supporters (22%), men (21%), 18 to 39-year-olds (20%), residents of Northern England (20%), and the C2DE social group (18%).

To put this 5% into some kind of context, BRIN readers should note that 53% of YouGov respondents expected to log on to the Internet on Christmas Day, 31% to watch the Queen’s Speech, 17% to have sex, 15% to have an argument, and 10% to take exercise.

Some of these statistics will doubtless turn out to be exaggerations, also, but we will leave you to guess which one(s)!

The full data tables for this YouGov survey are available at:


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