Monday, December 17, 2018

Yes, Virginia, We Still Believe in a Male Santa Claus

"There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics."

Another of the Christmas controversies this year has been the uproar over a report on a survey that seemed to indicate people wanted a gender-neutral Santa ClausThe study from a company called GraphicSprings, got the input of 400 people from the United States and United Kingdom for suggestions on how to modernize St. Nick.  They then used those results to poll 4,000 people on how they would envision the jolly elf.   It was then reported that the results showed 19 percent of people in the United States believe the Man with the Bag should be identified as gender neutral, more than 10 percent indicating he should be female.  Eighteen percent want the Fat Man to be wearing skinny jeans.  From there, respondents indicated their preference on his appearance, his method of transportation, and his other accessories.

And of course, predictably, the internet lost its mind.  It became the latest clickbait controversy and took off like wildfire.

Unsurprisingly, the "study" that supports these findings is junk.

To begin with, the study was conducted by a biased company.  GraphicSpring is a graphics company, primarily in logo design, who was looking specifically to change the image of Santa Claus.  They were going into the survey with the purpose of generating a newsworthy item, to draw attention to their company.  The survey was designed to highlight items that are polarizing in the "culture wars" - the outraged outcome was exactly the intent.  After all, look at the reporting.  No one is reporting that 70.79 percent of respondents believe that Santa Claus should be male or the other 60-70 percent populations that voted for no changes in any other category.  The news items focus on the 19% that supposedly want a radical change; a change that would be controversial.  It's a tactic designed to focus you to the controversial, to make you pick a side.

It's the same tactic used in news stories that proclaim that feminists want to end Father's Day or that men giving women CPR is sexual assault.  Real "fake" news; the kind designed to elicit a certain guaranteed response.

It should also be noted that participants did not come up with the idea to make Santa gender neutral themselves.  They were not asked the open question of "what would you do to modernize Santa?."  They were fed gender neutral as one possible answer.  A tactic that real studies avoid.

There's also an issue on the reporting of their numbers.  They indicated 4,000 people participated in the polling.  If you look, it appears that four sets of approximately 1,000 people participated on each of the sections of topics.  That could be 4,000 total unique individuals from the combined search sections, or some much smaller population just over 1,000 people accounted for four times.  They have not provided any transparency into the process. Likewise, we know no demographics, just that they are from the Untied States and the United Kingdom and between 18 and 65 years of age.  That could be a mix of all 18 year olds with one 65 year old.  It could also mean that they were all 20 years old, or all 60 years old.  We have no gender demographics, nor identity demographics.  We have no geographic breakdown.  There's a complete lack of the supporting information that would allow us to determine if this type of study was representative of a larger population.

And even still, even through that skewed process, the vast majority of voters still selected the attributes that would hew closest to a traditional Santa Claus.

A tempest wrapped in tinsel.

So, Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he will continue to be so for the foreseeable future.

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