MANILA, Philippines - More Filipinos expect to have a happy Christmas this year and a majority say non-material gifts are what matter, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey found.
A Nov. 27-30 poll had 69% of respondents saying they were looking forward to a cheerful Christmas, improving from last year’s 64% and breaching what the SWS said was the "flat" 62-64% range of the last six years.
Those anticipating a bleak holiday comprised 7%, better than last year’s 10% that was a repeat of 2004’s all-time high.
Respondents who said their Christmas would neither be happy nor sad, meanwhile, declined to 24% from 26%.
The record happiness peak of 82% was recorded in 2002, the year the SWS began surveying expectations about Christmas.
The latest survey results compare with a similar Pulse Asia poll -- conducted last October and released earlier this month -- where 39% said Christmas 2010 would be more prosperous, 50% said it would be no different from 2009 and 11% said it will be poorer.
Economists said the SWS figures reflected Filipinos optimism come Christmas time while a Palace spokesperson linked the results with confidence in the Aquino administration.
Expectations of a happy Christmas, the SWS said, remain lowest in Metro Manila at 55% but the result was up from last year’s 50%. The same margin of improvement was recorded for Metro Manilas figuring on a bleak holiday (11% from 16%).
Happiness with Christmas among residents in the metropolis, the SWS said, has been lower than in the Visayas, Mindanao and the Balance of Luzon since 2003.
In the three other geographical areas, improvements were noted in the rest of Luzon (70% from 62%) while in Mindanao and the Visayas the scores stayed unchanged at 71% and 73%, respectively.
Expectations of a sad Christmas fell to 5% from 8% in the rest of Luzon; to 6% from 9% in the Visayas; and 7% from 9% in Mindanao.
Those who were neither happy or sad in their holiday outlooks totalled 33% (from 34%) in Metro Manila, 24% (from 29%) in the Balance of Luzon, 21% (from 18%) in the Visayas and 20% (from 19%) in Mindanao.
By socioeconomic class, cheerful expectations were highest among the class D or masa at 70%, followed by class E at 67% and class ABC at 65%. Pessimism was at 7% among the class D, 8% in class E while no one said they expected a sad Christmas among the ABC class.
Those who said Christmas would neither be happy nor sad accounted for 35% among the class ABC; 22% in class D; and 26% in class E.
Happiness with Christmas was the highest among those aged 18-24 years old at 82%, better than the 68% for those in the 25-34 years old and 35-44 years old segments, 64% for the 45-54 years old and 67% for those 55 years old and above.
It increased in all age brackets when compared to 2009, with the biggest increase of 14 points seen among the youth, SWS said.
Asked an open-ended question on what they considered the most important gift they could give their loved ones, 57% said non-material presents. "Love/affection" was the top scorer at 29%, followed by "family togetherness/family relations" at 17%.
Also mentioned were good health (3%); peace and happiness; trust, understanding or better relationships; and prayers in general which scored 2% each, and guidance or support (1%).
Thirty percent, meanwhile, preferred material gifts, with 10% choosing clothing or shoes, 5% food and gifts in general, 4% money, 2% jewelry and gadgets or household amenities, and 1% picking toys and house and/or lot.
Love or affection was the most important Christmas gift in all areas and socioeconomic classes: 39% in Visayas, 28% in Metro Manila, 29% in Luzon and 20% in Mindanao; and 31% among the class ABC and D, and 24% among the class E.
Asked to comment, University of the Philippines economist Benjamin E. Diokno said Filipinos usually look forward to Christmas with hope and anticipation, but noted that the rise in optimism was "not spectacular since the comparison is to a crisis year."
"There remains a big segment of the population that is left behind," Mr. Diokno said.
The lower score for Metro Manila residents, he claimed, is a reflection of their economic mood as unemployment is highest in the metropolis -- at 12.6% in October according latest official data.
University of Asia and the Pacific economist Cid L. Terosa, for his part, pointed to "a carry-over of optimism with the election of new president"
In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the results were "a measure of the contentment the public feels."
The SWS surveyed 1,200 adults nationwide for the latest poll. The error margins used were ±3% for national and ±6% for area percentages.