Americans Most Desire Time with Loved Ones, Feel More “Merry” This Holiday Season

For the second straight year, a Consumers’ Research survey found that most Americans consider being with friends and family the best part of the holiday season. And once again, people expect the holidays to be merry.

About sixty percent (59%) of those surveyed gave “spending time with loved ones” the highest priority of importance, a six point increase from last year’s survey, and far ahead of sticking to their budget (28%), enjoying great meals (25%) and enhancing spiritual life (24%). And despite all of the people waiting in line on Black Friday, exchanging gifts plays a relatively small role in the holiday season. Only 18% of those surveyed put the highest priority on giving gifts, and only 5% on receiving gifts.

The gift that people most want to receive won’t even fit under a tree: 58% of respondents said that “quality time with loved ones” was a “very desirable” holiday gift. The next-closest choices were money (26%) and hand-made gifts (24%). In fact, store-bought gifts were tied with charitable donations in your name as the least popular type of gift (12%).

Respondents were also asked whether they thought the holiday season would be a happy one. Twenty-five percent said they thought it would be “the merriest it could possibly be”—up from 19% last year.

In the Spirit of Tiny Tim

The survey also found that some priorities vary according to income level.

  • Forty-three percent of those in the lowest income bracket also rated enhancing spiritual life the highest priority, compared to just 19% of the highest bracket.
  • The least wealthy of those surveyed looked forward to charitable giving: 19% versus just 11% of the wealthiest respondents.
  • With 29% of them expecting the holidays to be as merry as possible, respondents in the lowest income set are also the most optimistic.

Disparities between the Sexes

Although spending time with loved ones was easily the most popular activity, it was much more popular among women than men: 67% of women ranked it as being of the highest priority of importance, compared to 51% of men. Similarly, 65% of women rated quality time with loved ones as a very desirable gift, while only half of men surveyed had the same response. And women appreciate handmade gifts much more than men do: 32% to 15%.

About the Survey
The study was conducted online using the GfK “KnowledgePanel,” an online probability-based panel designed to be representative of the US general population, not just the online population. The study consisted of 1,031 interviews of randomly selected U.S. adult residents, conducted November 20 – 22, 2015, among adults aged 18+.  The margin of error is +/- 3 percentage points.


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Kyle Burgess is the co-founder of two social enterprises and has worked in strategy, communications, and program management for a decade. Kyle received her Master’s degree in International Relations & Economics from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) and her Bachelor's degree in Political Science from American University.


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