Holiday shopping over the Internet is up slightly again this year and continues to inch closer to par with catalog shopping.

In a new FOX News poll, conducted by Opinion Dynamics Corporation, 29 percent say they will buy holiday gifts over the Internet compared to 36 percent who will buy holiday gifts through mail order catalogs this year. The number using the Internet is up three points from 2001 and up 25 points from 1997, when only four percent of Americans planned to shop online. The number who say they will buy holiday gifts via catalogue this year remains fairly steady in comparison with past years (39 percent in 2001 and 1997).

Almost one quarter (24 percent) of Americans say they went shopping for holiday gifts the Friday after Thanksgiving. Young people were much more likely to battle the crowds on this traditional shopping day, with 30 percent of 18-34 year olds saying they went shopping, compared to 22 percent of those aged 60-70 and 13 percent of those over age 70. Women and men were almost equally likely to brave the fray, with 25 percent of women and 23 percent of men saying they went shopping the day after Thanksgiving.

Just over a third (35 percent) think people will spend more on holiday gifts this year than last, while 38 percent anticipate a decrease in spending. These predictions are up from last holiday season when, in October 2001, only 11 percent expected people to spend more on holiday gifts (65 percent less).

"While the economy is down, it is clear that people are willing to spend this holiday season," comments Opinion Dynamics President John Gorman. "Consumers aren't thrilled about the state of the economy and, in fact, have become somewhat more pessimistic recently.  However, they seem to be intent on trying to have as gift-filled a holiday as possible."

On a personal level, a slim majority (52 percent) has set a budget limit for their holiday shopping this year.

Santa, not Jesus, more recognized symbol of Christmas

The latest FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll shows a plurality thinks Santa Claus is the more recognized symbol of the Christmas holiday than Baby Jesus.  Almost half say Santa is the more recognized symbol compared to 39 percent who think Baby Jesus is the better known, while 10 percent volunteer that “both” are equally recognized.

Polling was conducted by telephone December 3-4, 2002 in the evenings. The sample is 900 registered voters nationwide with a margin of error of ±3 percentage points. Results are of registered voters, unless otherwise noted.

1. Did you go shopping for holiday gifts last Friday, the day after Thanksgiving?

Yes 24%
No/(Not sure) 76

2. Have you set a budget limit for your holiday shopping or not?

Yes 52%
No 46
(Not sure) 2

3. Do you think people will spend more or less on holiday gifts this year compared to last?

  More Less (Same) (Not sure)
3-4 Dec 02 35% 38 20 7
3-4 Oct 01 11% 65 18 6

4. Will you buy any of your holiday gifts through mail order catalogs?

  Yes No (Not sure)
3-4 Dec 02 36% 61 3
28-29 Nov 01 39% 58 3
10-11 Dec 97 39% 59 2

5. Will you buy any of your holiday gifts over the Internet?

  Yes No (Not sure)
3-4 Dec 02 29% 68 3
28-29 Nov 01 26% 72 2
10-11 Dec 97 4% 94 2

6. Which do you think is the more recognized symbol of the Christmas holiday -- Santa Claus or Baby Jesus?

  Santa Claus Baby Jesus (Neither) (Both)
3-4 Dec 02 49% 39 2 10