Whether Americans expect to spend more on Christmas gifts this holiday season or about the same as last year may depend on how one asks the question.

Gallup, for instance, recently surveyed people on how much they expect to spend, and their answer was an average of $846, a $52 increase over a year ago.  Gallup said that “portends a strong holiday spending season this year.”

But when the polling company asked the same group if they were planning to spend more or less than they did last year, the answer was overwhelming: About the same.

“Even as Americans’ dollar estimates of what they will spend are higher, most perceive their spending will be in line with what it was the prior year, as is typical,” Gallup writer Jeffrey Jones explains. “When asked if the amount they intend to spend on Christmas gifts this year is more, less or the same as last year, 64% say it is the same. The remainder tilt toward saying they will spend less (21%) rather than more (14%) compared with last year, also the usual pattern.”

Either way, it looks like it’s going to be a good season. The $846 average is one of the highest estimates in the last two decades, even if it is down $96 from what survey respondents reported in October. Such a drop is typical, however.

“Gallup has observed substantial October-to-November declines in 10 of the 14 years it has asked the question in both months,” Jones explained. “The nearly $100 drop observed this year is one of the larger ones Gallup has measured, but it is certainly not unprecedented…”

Those who indicated they would spend more this year are planning to spend an average of $1,068, while those planning to spend less are expecting to spend $515 on average. Those spending “about the same” put their figure at $910.

The survey was conducted Nov. 1–14.

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