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Poll: Economy still looms large over Christmas

Posted at 10:43 AM, Dec 26, 2013
and last updated 2013-12-26 10:43:09-05

(CNN) — While Americans may still deck the halls and stuff the stockings this Christmas, a new poll finds that the state of the economy is playing a major role in how Americans will celebrate it in 2013.

According to the CNN/ORC International poll, Americans plan to curtail their Christmas gift giving and charitable contributions due to economic concerns, while a sizable minority of Americans, 37%, report that the economy will make the Christmas holiday more stressful.

Sixty-one percent of respondents said they had to cut back on their holiday donations this year due to the economy, according to the poll.

That number is up from 2009, when 51% said they would be giving less to charity, and from 2010, when 58% said the same. Similarly, 62% of Americans said they were cutting back on their holiday gift giving this year.

The economy looming large over the holiday season has become a trend since the economic downturn and recession of 2008.

And this latest poll shows that even though 2013 brought welcome — albeit slow — economic growth, the recession still seems to have lingering effects on how Americans feel about Christmas.

In 2005, before the economic downturn, nearly half of all Americans said that Christmas was a “great time” or “the best time” of year. In 2008, just months after the financial crisis hit, that number was down to 43%.

And in the most recent poll, only 42% said Christmas was the best or great time of year — a sign that Christmas spirit has yet to fully recover from the recession. What’s more, this year a record low of 11% of people said Christmas was “the best time” of year.

These numbers comes despite the fact that by looking at most objective economic indicators, the last year has seen positive economic growth — including falling unemployment, growing gross domestic product and a soaring stock market.

Even if Christmas giving and spending will be scaled back, the more than nine in 10 Americans who say they will celebrate Christmas this year, plan to celebrate the holiday differently.

According to CNN’s Polling Director Keating Holland, those who celebrate Christmas can be categorized in four different groups:

Twenty-five percent of Americans are in the “Gung-Ho” group, meaning they go all out for the holiday. This includes putting up Christmas trees, lights and other decorations outside their homes. They also consider Christmas the best time of the year, and according to other polls, they go to church weekly.

Next are the 32% of people who look forward to celebrating the holiday but may not go all out. Members of this group — the “Ho-Ho-Ho” — are religious, according to other polls, but are not weekly church attendants.

Twenty-three percent of Americans are “Ho-Hum” about Christmas, meaning while they like Christmas, they aren’t wild about it.

They likely don’t decorate and they are the most likely group to limit what they eat during the holiday season. Only a quarter of this group attends church regularly, according to other polls.

Lastly are the 16% of Americans who fall under the “Bah, Humbug” group. This group says the holiday season is a bad time of year for them and they don’t spend much time or effort on the holiday.

Only 6% of Americans said they will not be celebrating Christmas this year.

The telephone survey of 1,035 people was conducted for CNN by ORC International on December 16-19. The poll has a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.