Seven out of Ten American Families Will Be Giving Out Treats This Halloween

by Frank Newport

Batman is top costume choice; 12% of Americans object to Halloween on religious grounds

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- Questions and answers about Halloween this year:

Is the custom of giving out treats at the door on Halloween widespread in this country?
Yes. Sixty-nine percent of all Americans said in a Gallup poll conducted last weekend that they would be "giving out Halloween treats from the door of their home on Halloween" this year, exactly the same number as in the ABC/Washington Postpoll from 1985. Interestingly, the custom is much more prevalent among white households: 72% of white adults interviewed in the poll said they will give out treats, compared to only 52% of those in nonwhite households. Additionally, Americans living in the South are somewhat less likely to be giving out treats than are those living elsewhere across the country.

There is usually talk of the dangers of trick-or-treating. Any sign that fewer kids will be out now than in the past?
No. A very large number of kids will apparently be out and about this Halloween. Two-thirds of parents of children under the age of 15 said that their child would be going out trick-or-treating door to door on Halloween. This is actually a somewhat larger number than in the past. When an ABC/Washington Postpoll asked the same question back in 1985, a slightly smaller number of Americans, 60%, said their children would be trick-or-treating.

What are kids' favorite costumes this year?
Costumes this year are going to be widely varied, but here are the top five choices when Gallup asked parents of children under 15 what their child would be wearing on Halloween:

  1. Batman
  2. Star Wars character
  3. Witch
  4. Pokémon
  5. Disney characters

What else will kids be wearing?
All types of things. Here's the rest of the list of costumes that 1% or more of the parents said their children would be wearing: princess, ghost, M&M, angel, clown, athlete, pumpkin, cowboy/cowgirl, fireman, ninja, Spiderman, cheerleader, Tigger, devil, Cinderella, "Blue's Clues,"Barbie, vampire, Grim Reaper, monster, and ladybug.

Are there differences in choice of costume by subgroup around the country?
There are not dramatic differences by region, although Star Wars characters seem to be a little more prevalent in the West, and witches and ghosts in the East. It is interesting to note that higher-income families are slightly more likely to say their kids will be Disney characters, while lower-income families are more likely to have kids dressed up as Batman.

There are some individuals who are opposed to Halloween on religious grounds, saying that it is in reality a celebration of the devil. How widespread is this?
About 12% of Americans say they have objections to celebrating Halloween on religious grounds. These objections are most common among conservatives and Republicans.

Finally, do Americans really believe in witches and ghosts?
Some do. In the most recent poll, 33% of Americans said they believe in ghosts, and 22% said they believe in witches. These numbers represent increases from 20 years ago, but we are unsure what that change really means, although one clue may be found in the fact that belief in ghosts is much higher among younger Americans than among older Americans. In fact, over half -- 54% -- of those 18-29 say they believe in ghosts, compared to only 8% of senior citizens 65 and older.

Survey Methods
The results below are based on telephone interviews with a randomly selected national sample of 1,005 adults, 18 years and older, conducted October 21-24, 1999. For results based on this sample, one can say with 95 percent confidence that the maximum error attributable to sampling and other random effects is plus or minus 3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

Will you or someone in your family be giving out Halloween treats from the door of your home on Halloween this year?

  Oct 24
1985(a)
Oct 21-24
1999
Yes 69% 69%
No 30 30
Don't Know/ Refused 1 1
  100% 100%
(a) ABC/Washington Post

Do you have any children under the age of 15?

Yes 36%
No 64
Don't Know/ Refused --
  100%

Will any of your children be going out trick-or-treating door to door on Halloween?

BASED ON -- 337-PARENTS OF CHILDREN UNDER 15; ±6 PCT PTS

  Oct 24
1985(a)
Oct 21-24
1999
Yes 60% 67%
No 38 31
Don't Know/ Refused 3 2
  100% 100%
(a) ABC/Washington Post

Will any of your children be wearing a costume this year at Halloween, or not?

BASED ON -- 337-PARENTS OF CHILDREN UNDER 15; ±6 PCT PTS

Yes 84%
No 14
Don't Know/ Refused 2
  100%

Do you personally have any objections on religious grounds to celebrating Halloween?

Yes 12%
No 88
No opinion *
  100%

Do you believe in witches?

BASED ON -- 493 -- NATIONAL ADULTS ASKED FORM A; ± 5 PCT PTS

  Feb 27
1978
Oct 21-24
1999
Yes 11% 22%
No 89 77
No opinion * 1
  100% 100%

Do you believe in ghosts?

BASED ON -- 512 -- NATIONAL ADULTS ASKED FORM B; ± 5 PCT PTS

  Feb 27
1978
Oct 21-24
1999
Yes 11% 33%
No 89 65
No opinion * 2
  100% 100%

* less than 0.5%

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