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How much will you spend on holiday gifts? Do you prefer 'Merry Christmas'? Siena finds out

A majority of New Yorkers who participated in Siena College Research Institute's poll of holiday trends say they plan to spend the same amount of money on gifts as they did last year. A wide majority say they'll give to the less fortunate and, by a slim margin, New Yorkers prefer the greeting "Merry Christmas."

More than 60 percent of those responding to Siena pollsters stated they are excited about the coming holidays and overall consumer confidence is slightly higher than in 2015. As far as spending on gifts this year, Institute director Dr. Don Levy says 57 percent of those responding plan to spend about the same as they did last year.

About 51 percent of the respondents say they plan to spend $500 or less while 24 percent told pollsters they have a gift budget of $1,000 or more. Dr. Levy told WBFO that levels of income were an obvious influence.

"People making under $50,000 per year - half of them - say they're going to spend under $300," he said. "There just really isn't a lot of money to go around for those of us who are making $50,000 or less."

Anticipated spending was more mixed among respondents earning between $50,000 and $100,000, Levy added. About 22 percent of those people reported they would spend about $300, while about 25 percent admitted they plan to splurge.

A wide majority of New Yorkers, meanwhile, plan to support the needy this season. Overall, 76 percent said they plan to donate food, money or gifts to charity, while 37 percent said they plan to volunteer some time. 

Siena College Research Institute also asked New Yorkers to reveal their preferred greeting at this time of year. Levy says "Merry Christmas" wins out, but not by much. About 51 percent of the respondents stated their preference of "Merry Christmas," but Levy noted a noticeable geographical difference.

"Across Upstate, two thirds of us prefer to say 'Merry Christmas.' Only about a quarter of Upstaters will use the more generic 'Happy Holidays,'" he said. "In New York City, we see a flip. We see a plurality of New York City residents, 48 percent, saying 'Happy Holidays' against only 39 percent in New York City saying 'Merry Christmas.'"

The survey also asks adults if they believe in Santa Claus. Many adults admitted they still believe in jolly old St. Nick, 32 percent across New York State, with the strongest support coming from Catholics and Latinos. Younger adults were less likely to believe in Santa, while 39 percent of respondents saying yes were ages 65 and older.

"I always told my kids it's in your best interest to believe in Santa Claus," said Levy with a laugh.

Click here for the full survey results.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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