We'll give more but not to charity

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The Independent Online
FEWER Britons are likely to give money to charity this Christmas, even though they are spending more on presents, a Mori survey for the Independent on Sunday suggests. The study also indicates that an increasing number are coming to regard Christmas not as the season of goodwill but of family quarrels.

Mori questioned more than 1,000 people across the country last week about their expectations for Christmas. The survey found that only 24 per cent intended to give money to charity. This compared with 37 per cent in a similar Mori study four years ago.

Last week's survey covered the 16-54 age group, and it seems that young people are meaner than their elders. Among the 35-54 group, those expecting to give to to charities was down from 43 per cent to 27, while among the younger age group, the 16-34s, the fall was from 32 per cent to 21.

Generosity towards friends and relatives, however, appears to be on the increase. In 1991,a third of those questioned said they spent less on presents than in the previous year. This year that figure was halved to just 16 per cent, a sign which the Government might interpret as the first glimmer of a return of the so-called feel-good factor.

But whatever good feeling there is tends to come under strain during the festivities. In 1991, 11 per cent of those questioned said they expected a family row, but that has now risen to 18 per cent.

What do we do at Christmas? Well more than seven out of ten of us spend it watching television, and nearly an equal proportion drink alcohol - both figures largely unchanged from 1991.

Strikingly fewer people, however, expect to do this at home this year. Only 48 per cent expect to stay at home for Christmas, compared with 74 per cent who said in 1991 they would spend the holiday at home.

Christmas is a time for children, and 39 per cent, the same as in 1991, said they expected to fill a child's Christmas stocking this year. Among the 16-34 group this was the plan for 36 per cent, while among the 35- 54s 44 per cent said they would.

Overall, more than one-third of men (35 per cent) and nearly half of the women (47 per cent) said they would be filling some child's stocking this Christmas.

Twenty-three per cent of those asked said they intended to go to church during the holiday, and these were more likely to be women, older people, Tories and Southerners.

Carol services are nearly as popular, with 19 per cent expecting to go to a carol concert or service, while 6 per cent said they planned to go carol-singing in the street. Sixteen per cent said they would be going to a pantomime or Christmas show at a theatre.

In percentage terms, the biggest change in what people will be doing is, perhaps predictably, in the numbers playing computer games. Whereas about one in twenty, 6 per cent, said that they played computer games four years ago, one person in six, or 18 per cent, now expects to.

Among the younger group, 16-34, the figure has jumped from 6 per cent to 20 per cent, mainly at the expense of board games (from 40 per cent down to 33 per cent), but not charades, whose popularity has doubled from 6 to 12 percent among this age group. Overall, 34 per cent expect to play board games and 11 per cent charades, on Christmas Day.

And who are the people who say they intend to ignore the whole thing? One person in 50, who is more likely to be a man than a woman, older rather than younger (none under 20), more urban than rural, more Labour than Tory or Liberal Democrat, more Midlands than South or North.

The typical Christmas curmudgeon, then, might be a male Labour supporter of 40, living in Birmingham.

The Mori survey was carried out among a representativesample of 1,003 adults aged 16-54 in 72 constituency sampling points throughout Great Britain on 19 and 20 December.

Professor Robert M Worcester is chairman of Mori.

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