• Allison Baker

FACT CHECK: Do People Want Santa to Get a “Gender Neutral Rebrand”?

FALSE. In an unofficial poll about ways to ‘modernise’ Santa, 174 out of 1,015 respondents said that he should be gender neutral.

Last week, The Sun, a newspaper partly based in the United Kingdom, published an article with the headline “Santa Claus could get a gender neutral rebrand as part of effort to ‘modernise’ Christmas.” The article cites a survey by GraphicSprings, an online logo company, asking people about ways to “rebrand” Santa. The story was similarly distributed by other media outlets, including Breitbart, ABC6 Action News, and Mirror Online—the tone of which, especially in headlines, implied that a majority of people want Santa’s presenting gender changed, and that there is serious ongoing discussion about doing so. These articles have also been circulating on Twitter and have inspired a number of Youtube videos in response, including one by Bill O’Reilly, whose show The O’Reilly Factor aired on Fox News for over twenty years.

The characterization of the survey’s results by The Sun and others is false. First, the majority of the survey’s respondents—72 percent—were in favour of Santa identifying as male. According to GraphicSprings, the survey was staged in two parts: first, they used Google Surveys to ask 400 people in the United States and the United Kingdom about ways Santa should be “rebranded”; next, some of these suggestions were turned into questions for a second survey, which included a total of 4,000 respondents.

One thousand fifteen people answered the question, “If you could ‘rebrand’ Santa for modern society, what gender would he be?” (The multiple-choice answers were “male,” “female,” and “gender neutral.”) While the majority of respondents said that Santa should remain male, 108 responded that Santa should be female-presenting, and 174 chose gender neutral.

It is also important to note that the survey was not conducted by an official polling organization: GraphicSprings created the survey for internal purposes. Because the survey was conducted informally and not by a professional research or polling agency, its methodology cannot be trusted. And even if the survey’s results showed a majority in favour of changing Santa’s presented gender, this would not be indicative of any kind of future change. (There is, of course, no governing cultural authority dictating the identity of legendary figures.)

Many people on Twitter have since criticized the survey and the ensuing media coverage, arguing that such clickbait tactics (including misleading and inaccurate headlines) can be harmful to LGBTQ communities—in part because they might incite anger among readers who believe the story to be true. As an article in Junkee points out, this sort of survey was designed to go viral instead of accurately representing public opinion.