Poll: Fake Christmas Trees Grow Popular

ByABC News
December 23, 2004, 11:30 AM

Dec. 23, 2004 — -- You can deck the halls with holly, but the tree, these days, is likely to be made of plastic.

Among Americans who put up a Christmas tree, a majority -- 58 percent in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll -- say they use an artificial tree rather than a real one. That's a sharp increase from 40 percent in a Gallup poll 15 years ago.

Growers have noticed: The National Christmas Tree Association is running a game called "Attack of the Mutant Artificial Trees" on its Web site, with instructions that say, "The artificial trees have mutated and are sucking the spirit out of Christmas. Help the elf beat these bad guys by hitting them with snowballs!"

It may not be that easy. This poll finds majorities across population groups using artificial trees, ranging by age from 70 percent of seniors to 57 percent of 20-somethings, and including six in 10 Democrats and Republicans alike (finally, something they agree on).

Recent reports cite a 34 percent drop in live-tree sales the past decade, and a 30 percent rise last year alone in the sale of fake trees, to 9.6 million.

The tree association argues that real trees offer fragrance, freshness and "the look and feel of the holidays," and are a recyclable, renewable resource. Artificial trees, mainly manufactured in China, are promoted as being convenient (no needles on the rug, and some come with lights already hung), reusable and better quality than the old stick-figure stereotypes. Backers note that some buildings bar live trees out of fire-safety concerns.

The tree association reports an average price last year of $33.80 for a live tree, compared with $68.80 for an artificial one. Then again, the cost of a fake tree can be amortized; some even come with a 10-year warranty.

There are differences among groups in the choice of real versus artificial trees. Income is one dividing line: Better-off people are more apt to buy live trees (but still, just 50 percent of those with household incomes over $75,000), while less-well-off Americans are more apt to buy artificial trees (peaking at 66 percent of those in under-$20,000 households.)