SAINT LEO, FL ­– Choosing a favorite Christmas movie or TV show can be a challenge. There is a movie about a department store Santa Claus who claims to be the real Santa. Or how about a holiday movie plot with a suicidal man who sacrificed his dreams for the good of his small town and is guided by a guardian angel to see that he made a difference. Then there is a classic cartoon featuring beloved characters who take a stand against the commercialization of Christmas and find the real meaning of the holiday.

A new survey released by the Saint Leo University Polling Institute ( shows Miracle on 34th Street claimed the top spot as a Christmas favorite among 18 choices. It garnered 39.8.percent. The online poll surveyed 1,001 adults in the United States from November 27 through November 30, 2016.

The majority of poll respondents, 90.1 percent, said they celebrate Christmas. Those who celebrate the holiday were asked to name their favorite Christmas movies and TV shows. Multiple responses were accepted.

In a poll of 501 Florida residents, Miracle on 34th Street also was the No. 1 pick with 43.3 percent. Perhaps those who flocked from the North to the South fondly remember Christmas shopping at Macy’s in New York City, where the movie is set.

Second place went to the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life, which starred Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey. The USA network will air the movie on Friday, December 16, and it will air at 8 p.m., EST, Christmas Eve, on NBC. The movie, celebrating its 70th anniversary, earned second place in the national poll with 36.8 percent, while Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, a 1964 stop motion animated television special, placed second in Florida in the Saint Leo poll with 36.1 percent.

It’s a Wonderful Life came in third in Florida with 35.5 percent while A Charlie Brown Christmas earned third in the nation with 34.9 percent.

“It’s clear to me the public has gotten the wrong answer,” said a laughing Dr. Kenny Embry, a Saint Leo University associate professor of communication management. “It’s a Wonderful Life was obviously the correct response in this survey.”

Embry continued, “Does America like melodramatic sentimentality and corn? Absolutely, and that’s probably a very good thing. If you look at the responses, it shows Americans are both nostalgic and sentimental during this season. There’s something inherently right about a people who embrace optimism and their history. It is interesting to note most of these movies were produced more than 30 years ago. Traditional values appear to continue to be touchstones for the American identity.”

Many of the Christmas movies and TV shows also celebrate family. “In a season of cynicism and a brutal election season, it’s nice to know optimism and nostalgia are an indelible part of the American character,” Embry said.

View the complete list here.

Media contacts: Jo-Ann Johnston, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-8237 or (352) 467-0843 (cell/text). Mary McCoy, Saint Leo University, University Communications or (352) 588-7118 or (813) 610-8416 (cell/text).

More About Our Research

METHODOLOGY: All surveys were conducted using an online survey instrument. The national poll of 1,001 adults was conducted from November 27 through November 30, 2016, and has a plus or minus 3.0 percent margin of error. A sample of 501 adults in Florida were also surveyed from November 27 through November 30, 2016. The findings from the Florida survey have a plus or minus 4.5 percent margin of error.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute conducts its surveys using cutting-edge online methodology, which is rapidly transforming the field of survey research. The sample is drawn from large online panels, which allow for random selections that reflect accurate cross sections of all demographic groups. Online methodology has the additional advantage of allowing participants to respond to the survey at a time, place, and speed that is convenient to them, which may result in more thoughtful answers. The Saint Leo University Polling Institute develops the questionnaires, administers the surveys, and conducts analysis of the results. Panel participants typically receive a token incentive—usually $1 deposited into an iTunes or Amazon account—for their participation.

The Saint Leo University Polling Institute survey results about national and Florida politics, public policy issues, Pope Francis’ popularity, and other topics, can be found here: You can also follow the institute on Twitter @saintleopolls.

About Saint Leo University

Saint Leo University ( is a modern Catholic teaching university that is firmly grounded in the liberal arts tradition and the timeless Benedictine wisdom that seeks balanced growth of mind, body, and spirit. The Saint Leo University of today is a private, nonprofit institution that creates hospitable learning communities wherever our students want to be or need to be, whether that is a campus classroom, a web-based environment, an employer’s worksite, a military base, or an office park. We welcome people of all faiths and of no religious affiliation, and encourage learners of all generations. We are committed to providing educational opportunities to our nation’s armed forces, our veterans, and their families. We are regionally accredited to award degrees ranging from the associate to the doctorate, and we guide all our students to develop their capacities for critical thinking, moral reflection, and lifelong learning and leadership.

We remain the faithful stewards of the beautiful lakeside University Campus in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, where our founding monks created the first Catholic college in the state in 1889. Serving nearly 15,000 students, we have expanded to downtown Tampa, to other sites in Florida and beyond, and maintain a physical presence in seven states. We provide highly respected online learning programs to students nationally and internationally. More than 82,000 alumni reside in all 50 states, in Washington, DC, in three U.S. territories, and in 76 countries.