Santa Census shows 83% of Santas judge humanity as mostly ‘nice’

The survey explores the question: Who is Santa Claus, really?
Students check to see if Santa Jim's beard is real at Wimauma Elementary School in Wimauma, Fla. Of Santas we surveyed, 92.9 percent reported having their beard pulled by a child. [GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES  | Times]
Students check to see if Santa Jim's beard is real at Wimauma Elementary School in Wimauma, Fla. Of Santas we surveyed, 92.9 percent reported having their beard pulled by a child. [GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES | Times]
Published Dec. 20, 2017|Updated Dec. 22, 2017

Even after hundreds of years of working on a federal holiday and tallying billions of names in the bad and good columns of what must be a nightmarish Excel spreadsheet, Santa Claus maintains a sunny outlook on humanity.

We know, because we surveyed close to 700 Santas across the country and nearly 83 percent of them said they find most people to be nice, rather than naughty (another 16 percent said it’s about 50/50, and 1.3 percent said people are straight-up naughty).

We contacted Santa schools, trade organizations and a business that caters to Santas seeking cookie and peppermint-scented colognes. With the help of the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas, the Santa Claus Conservatory, Pro Santa School and SantaScents, we distributed a 25-question survey to Santa Clauses across the United States to find out more about those who wear the red suit for the Christmas season.

Some of the questions were modeled after the actual U.S. Census. That’s how we found out that Santa is generally a married, white, Christian father, with at least some college under his (wide, black) belt, though there were 17 Santas in the group who’d never married or had children of their own.

While the majority of Santas identified as Christian, he doesn’t necessarily identify with a religion that traditionally celebrates Christmas; we heard from seven Jewish and seven Buddhist Santa Clauses.

Of course, when you’re talking about the jolly old elf you have to have some fun too. That’s why we know that Santa’s favorite cookies are chocolate chip, and that he loves “Miracle on 34th Street,” but dislikes “Bad Santa.” He also rides a motorcycle 19 percent of the time, and has a tattoo more often than that.

A question about Santa’s choice in underwear might fall under the category of TMI (too much information) but you can decide on that.

Here’s a look at the findings.


How old is Santa?

  • Average Age: 61
  • Youngest Responding: 31
  • Oldest Responding: 81

Family Status

  • 83.5 percent of Santas are married
  • 6.6 percent are divorced or separated
  • 2.9 percent are single and never married
  • 11.69 percent have no children of their own
  • Average expected earnings in a season $5883.54
  • Highest any Santa expected: $55,000
  • More than 6 percent of Santas only do unpaid, volunteer work, and more than 40 percent will do both paid and volunteer Santa work this year.
  • 40 percent of Santas are retired and do not work another job
  • 35.9 percent of Santas are veterans of the U.S. armed forces
Related: Want to be Santa? Be ready for heartbreaking requests

Santa has a tough job!

Many Santas told us that they’ve had to deal with a tough request, as well as beard pulling, hitting or dirty diaper issues.

  • 49 percent have had a child ask them for a weapon as a gift
  • 51 percent have had a child ask them to reunite separated parents
  • 95 percent have had a child question if they were real

Santa’s outlook on humanity

When we asked Santas, do you find most people to be naughty, or nice?

  • 82.6 percent chose “Nice”
  • 1.3 percent chose “Naughty”
  • 16.1 percent chose “It’s about 50/50”

Santa’s appearance

  • Average Weight: 257.31 pounds
  • Largest Santa Responding: 405 pounds
  • Smallest Santa Responding: 110 pounds
  • Percentage of Santas Who Whiten Their Beard or Hair: 54.53%
  • Percentage of Santas Who Wear a Fake Beard: 7.14%
  • Percentage of Santas With a Tattoo: 23.05%

Santa’s Preferences

  • 48.36 % of Santas prefer egg nog over cider
  • 35.01 % prefer cider
  • 15.63 % think they’re both gross

Boxers or Briefs?

  • 38.36 % percent prefer boxers
  • 42.7 % prefer briefs
  • 18.94 % percent chose the option “something else”