Dec. 26, 2018 | By Alison Roman, The Wall St. JournalThe holiday season is often seen as the time when most Americans begin the year off on the right foot.
But in a new report, the Pew Research Center found that while the year might be going great, a disproportionate number of the news media coverage of the holiday season involves stories about people’s happiness and satisfaction.
The study found that news coverage of Christmas was more negative and less positive than it was of the first three months of 2018.
The findings, which come from the Pew Christmas Index, reflect a broader trend that has emerged over the last two decades: The Christmas season is now viewed more negatively than positively by the news community.
“People are not getting the message that Christmas is about getting out of the house, enjoying a family meal and playing with your family, as it once was,” said Matthew L. Fishel, senior media analyst at Pew.
The index also found that people are less likely to report being happy about their Christmas holiday experiences than the previous three months.
In 2018, the index found that 70 percent of people felt their holiday was not worth the effort.
Only 35 percent said they were happy.
In 2017, it was 71 percent.
The Pew Christmas index is based on more than 1,000 questions about people and the media in 2017, which included a survey of 4,200 adults.
Pew asked about their level of happiness, happiness with the holiday, and satisfaction with the news and the news industry.
The report also found news outlets were more likely to cover stories about family holidays and how people are coping with the holidays.
“A lot of these stories are really about how we are coping,” said Paulina G. Hager, senior vice president of research at Pew and co-author of the report.
“People are talking about how they are feeling, how they have been feeling and they are really just trying to figure out how to make the most of Christmas.”
The survey also found a wide range of news coverage focused on people’s expectations of the holidays, rather than their experiences.
About 50 percent of the respondents to the report said they expected a lot of things to happen during the holiday.
About 25 percent said things would be much easier this year than in the past.
And just over 13 percent said the news had more news coverage about the holidays this year compared with last year.
About a quarter of respondents said they felt their family members were getting a bad Christmas this year, while about a third said their family did not feel they were getting enough Christmas.
The survey found the majority of Americans have no plans to buy a Christmas tree this year.
Only 16 percent of those surveyed said they had purchased a Christmas ornament or a gift card, while only 11 percent said a Christmas party had happened at home.
About two-thirds of those polled said they did not know how to find out when their children’s birthday was.
About 13 percent of them said they do not know where their children were celebrating their birthday.
Nearly all of the media coverage focused primarily on the negative side of the story about the Christmas season.
A full 74 percent of news outlets focused on how people feel about the holiday and how they feel about their families and their loved ones.
About half of the stories about how people have been spending their time this year focused on whether people are spending their money more wisely.
Only 14 percent of stories focused on the positive side of how people spend their money this year and about a quarter focused on spending their income more wisely and the remainder focused on savings.
About six-in-ten (59%) of the coverage focused mostly on how the news outlets have portrayed the holiday story, and about three-quarters (75%) of them focused on their own coverage.
About one-third (35%) of stories about the news companies focus on the positives of the season.
About seven-in, or 56%, of the reports about how families have been coping focused on issues like whether parents are spending more time together or whether children are spending a lot more time at home and more time with friends.
The news media’s focus on negative stories is particularly troubling for a group of people whose lives are already difficult and uncertain.
In the United States, an estimated 30 percent of adults are living with HIV, about 20 percent are unemployed, and a quarter are unemployed but have health insurance.
These issues are also on the minds of a significant number of people.
The survey found that a significant portion of the population is also concerned about the impact of climate change and about the future of their jobs.
“There are so many different factors at play that make it very difficult to stay engaged with a wide variety of news and current events,” Fisher said.
“For many of these people, their job and their family are the main concerns.”