Today's Tennessean delves into the culture war over salutations. While it reports the high numbers of Americans who prefer wishing people "Merry Christmas" at this time of the year, it also seems to claim that prospects of non-Merry-Christmas salutations have "touched a nerve with the American people." However, in making that claim, reporter Bonna de la Cruz has confused personal preference with a different question: whether the semantics of the salutation really matter to many Americans.
A recent poll not cited in the Tennessean clears up that confusion. According to the Pew Research Center, while personal preferences for "Merry Christmas" are indeed strong, Americans do not feel as strongly that being wished "Merry Christmas" matters more than being wished "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings":
Most among the U.S. public are largely unconcerned about how they are greeted as they enter stores and businesses during the holiday season. But, between the two, by a substantial 60%-23% margin the public does prefer "Merry Christmas" to non-religious welcomes such as "Season's Greetings," according to a Pew survey conducted in December of last year. However, given the choice, a 45% plurality says it does not matter much either way.