Whether in spite of the rancorous campaign for President or perhaps because of the prolonged acrimony, most Americans say bring on the holiday season.

Nine of 10 respondents who participated in Consumer Reports' first Holiday Poll of 2016 were at least somewhat excited that Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, and other seasonal celebrations were on the horizon. Twenty-eight percent said they were really looking forward to the holidays.

That enthusiasm is likely to translate into an uptick in holiday spending. Americans plan to spend $563, on average, this year, up 6 percent from 2015, according to our findings.

But the picture isn’t entirely rosy. The poll, which was conducted before the Nov. 8 election, also reveals how the bitter campaign has taken a toll on the American psyche. While around three-quarters of those surveyed said the campaign left them unfazed, 21 percent said it dampened their festive spirit; 19 percent said it made them more worried about their holiday spending.

On the plus side, the campaign’s focus on the loss of American manufacturing jobs resonated with many, prompting 40 percent of respondents to say that it has become increasingly important for them to seek out gifts that are made in the U.S.

As a group, baby boomers felt the strongest pull toward patriotic consumption, while millennials were the least likely to think that buying domestically produced presents was more important at this point in time.

The Holiday Poll is now in its 11th year.


Visit Consumer Reports' 2016 Holiday Gift Guide for updates on deals, expert product reviews, insider tips on shopping, and much more. And be sure to check our Daily Gift Guide.
 

Overall, when it comes to holiday spending, 57 percent of consumers anticipate spending the same amount of money as they did last year. Sixteen percent expect to increase their expenditures, while 26 percent—particularly women—intend to spend less. These percentages are relatively unchanged from the responses to the same question a year ago.

While per capita spending is expected to average $563, the amount differs by gender and age. Men say they’ll spend $628, women, $508. Gen Xers, those born around the mid-1960s to mid-1980s, intend to splurge the most, at $695. Millennials, the youngest age group we surveyed, plan to spend the least, $453.

Among those who said they’ll dig deeper into their pockets, 64 percent attributed their largesse to simply having more money to spend than they did a year ago; 54 percent said they’re feeling more generous; while 45 percent got a raise, promotion, or better-paying job. Twenty-three percent also cited lower gas prices.

How will Americans pay for all those gifts? Cash continues to be king, used by 75 percent of shoppers. Fifty-eight percent plan to use a debit card as well (up from 54 percent last year and 45 percent two years ago). Forty-four percent say they’ll use Visa, American Express, or other major credit cards, up from 40 percent last year and on par with the 45 percent from 2014.

Two key reasons consumers are eschewing credit cards in favor of other payment forms is to avoid debt (cited by 67 percent of respondents) and to maintain better control over their spending (59 percent).

Only a quarter of consumers attributed concern over data breaches as a reason for cutting back on credit-card usage. And despite all the hoopla over the growth in mobile payment options, only 1 percent of respondents plan to use services such as Apple, Android, or Samsung Pay.

Credit-card debt is a bona fide worry for many Americans, especially during the holidays, but most people (48 percent) who charged their holiday spending last year to a card paid off their balance in full by the next billing cycle. Twenty percent took three or more months to finish paying their balance, while 5 percent remain in debt nearly a year later.

To help keep spending in check, 48 percent of those surveyed (52 percent of women and 43 percent of men) said they plan to implement a gift budget; that’s down 9 percentage points from 2015. However, intentions and actions don’t always jibe. Last year, only 37 percent of Americans actually made a budget, and 34 percent of them went overboard. Four percent admit to spending far more than planned.


Holiday Poll Methodology: The Consumer Reports National Research Center designed a survey to explore general sentiment and shopping behaviors for the upcoming 2016 winter holiday season. In October and November 2016, ORC International administered the phone survey to a nationally representative sample of over 2,000 randomly selected adult U.S. residents; 84 percent will be shopping this holiday season. The data were statistically weighted so that respondents in the survey were demographically and geographically representative of the U.S. population. The margin of error for holiday shoppers is +/- 2.4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. Fifty-three percent of the sample was female, and the median age was 44 years old.