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Photo: <a href="">mlhradio</a>, Creative Commons, some rights reserved
Photo: mlhradio, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

Hundreds of adults say they believe in Santa

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A quick disclaimer: this story may not be for children. It addresses the existence of a certain man who lives in the North Pole.

The Siena College Research Institute does regular public opinion surveys in a wide range of areas, varying from politics to business to culture. On Wednesday, Siena released the results of a special survey about the holiday season in New York.

One of the survey questions asked adults what they think about Santa Claus, and far more grown-ups than you might think said they believe.

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Reported by

Zach Hirsch
Reporter and Producer

The survey asked a lot of general questions about the holiday season. Questions like “are you making a New Year’s resolution?” and “will you be donating to charity?” It also asked people whether their Christmas tree will be real or artificial.

Don Levy, the director of the research institute, says the survey gauges where we’re at culturally.

“So many of us fall victim to the fallacy that what we believe, or what we do, is representative of what all people either do or should do,” he said.

So, just for fun, they threw in this extra question:

“Would you say you believe in Santa Claus, or not?”

The majority –70 percent – said “no”. But what about all those people who didn’t say “no”?

“Women are far more likely than our men to believe in Santa. Folks that are 65 years of age and older are far more likely than people who are 18 to 34,” Levy said.

“Maybe I’m just really cynical, but I thought everyone finds out when they’re a little kid that Santa’s not real," reporter Zach Hirsch told Levy in a phone interview. "But this says 30 percent of adults believe in Santa. What’s that all about?”

“Well, I think that people hear what they want to hear in a question. I think some people hear that question in terms of: ‘during this time of year, do you allow yourself to get involved in the mystique of the season? Do you believe that there is some sort of underlying spirit or magic or energy that you can call Santa?’ 

Okay, so maybe 30 percent of adults don’t really believe there is a man who lives in the North Pole and knows whether children have been naughty or nice.

But there actually is a certain reality to this Christmas spirit, Santa stuff. The Siena poll shows it.

“Amongst those people who say they believe in Santa, charitable giving jumps to 87%,” Levy said. 

And conversely, Levy says that people who don’t believe in Santa are 15 percent less likely to donate to charity.

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