What do you most look forward to about the upcoming Holidays? Harris Poll asked this of a panel sample of Americans in the first week of November and nearly two-thirds (62 percent) selected spending time with family and friends. Another one in ten looks forward to holiday dinners and parties, which is a very similar response. Fragments (seven percent or less) selected giving presents, TV specials, Christmas music on the radio, putting up decorations, and getting presents.
The amazing thing about this survey is what Harris did not include in its list of choices. There is nothing about religious services, nativity scenes, caroling, or volunteering for/donating to charities. Am I wrong are all of those things more associated in the minds of the majority of Americans with Christmas than TV specials?
This spiritual blind spot is not the only thing that undercuts the validity of these data. This is part of a new Harris Poll methodology called Harris Interactive. I had not read the fine print for some time and was surprised to find that it does not tell the response rate nor the margin of error. In fact there is a lengthy paragraph that is quite defensive in tone. This is a panel of individuals who have been recruited to respond to Harris Polls who are then "interviewed" via an online arrangement. Online polling is still in its infancy and no one really understands all of the dimensions that may result in valid or junk data. I was also surprised to see that "these statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls." Wait a minute, what happened to the American Association for Public Opinion Research, which has been the established organization for such standards for many years?