It's beginning to feel a lot like the War on Christmas, at least for culture warriors alert to any signs of an anti-Santa strain. Lucky for them, Donald Trump is around.
In the latest example of pollsters having fun, the folks at Public Policy Polling have surveyed the land and, after checking it twice, found out that among voters who believe there is an assault on yuletide cheer, the billionaire developer is the 2016 presidential candidate they most trust to protect America from the War on Christmas. "I think that those people who are inclined to believe there is a War on Christmas, that they think their country is turning away from them, or is muffling them, then Donald Trump has put himself forth as their champion, and will call out what they think is going on," said Jim Williams, a PPP polling analyst.
Twenty-nine percent of those surveyed said Trump was the man to beat back Scrooge's forces, beating out the 16 percent who thought retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson was their Christmas warrior. Hillary Clinton had 15 percent think she could lead the holiday cheer, followed by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, at 14 percent, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush at 9 percent, and Sens. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., at 6 percent each.
Might there be some irony that two of Trump's more avowedly religiously opponents, Carson and Cruz, were far behind? Williams thinks that while Trump enjoys the reputation for speaking up to purported political correctness, Cruz might be gaining.
"I think we're in a transition time, where Carson is heading down and Cruz is heading up. If we had done this three months ago, you'd probably see Cruz ahead of Carson," Williams said.
But there's a rub. The number of voters who even think there is a War on Christmas is declining, according to PPP's polling.
In 2012, when the firm left its first Christmas poll in our stockings, 47 percent of voters believed in a Kris-Kringle-centered conflict, compared to 40 percent who didn't. Three years later, the most wonderful poll of the year found only 37 percent believing in the WOC, compared with 42 percent saying there was no such thing.
There is also a party divide, with 56 percent of Republicans saying the War on Christmas was real, compared to 26 percent who didn't — the statistical inverse of Democrats, 26 percent of whom believed in the WOC to 55 percent who doubted it existed.
One Christmas figure not too entangled in the partisan divide is Santa Claus himself. In the 2012 holiday poll, PPP found that 44 percent of voters thought Santa was a Democrat and 28 percent thought he was in the GOP, a survey taken after President Barack Obama had been re-elected.
Fast forward three years, though, and it appears fewer boys and girls think Santa has a party preference. Twenty-eight percent thought he was a Democrat, while 22 percent thought he was a Republican, with half not sure.
Santa, it seems, might be the ultimate general election candidate.
And what was the biggest surprise PPP unwrapped?
"I think it's kind of funny that Republicans preferred fruitcake over Democrats," Williams said. Among all voters, 38 percent said they thought the alleged treat was good, while 52 percent opted for "nah." But 50 percent of Republicans and 58 percent of seniors liked fruitcake, compared to only 39 percent of Democrats and 27 percent of young voters.
"Old people and Republicans are on board with fruitcake. You wouldn't think anyone would be," Williams said.
And then there was this shocking finding: Only 13 percent of voters thought "Die Hard" was a Christmas movie, compared to the 62 percent who said the Bruce Willis action-comedy was not, despite its Christmas-in-Los Angeles setting. Maybe those surveyed missed Willis' gift-wrapped message to the terrorists he is battling in the movie: "Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho."
The survey of 1,267 registered voters via phone and internet was conducted Dec. 16-17 and has a 3-point error margin.