Americans Speak Out About the Arts in 2018: An In-Depth Look at Perceptions and Attitudes About the Arts in America

Posted by Mr. Randy I. Cohen, Sep 27, 2018 0 comments

We are better people with the arts in our lives. They make us healthier, creative, and more actively engaged citizens who feel better about today and more optimistic about tomorrow. In a society struggling to find equity and social justice, Americans believe the arts improve the quality of our communities.

How do we know? We asked.

Americans Speak Out About the Arts in 2018 is the second in a series of national public opinion surveys conducted by Ipsos on behalf of Americans for the Arts. One of the largest ever conducted, it gauges the public perspective on (1) personal engagement in the arts as audience and creator, (2) support for arts education and government arts funding, (3) opinions on the personal and well-being benefits that come from engaging in the arts, and (4) how those personal benefits extend to the community.

Here are a few of the findings from the survey:

Americans have high levels of arts engagement.

  • Nearly three-quarters of Americans (72 percent) say they attended an arts or cultural event during the previous year, such as the theater, museum, zoo, or a musical performance. Consistent with previous studies, higher attendance rates are found with higher education and income.
  • We are just as likely to experience the arts outside of traditional arts venues than inside. 72 percent say they enjoyed the arts in “non-arts” venues such as a symphony in the park, exhibitions in a hospital or shopping mall, or a performance in an airport. Savvy arts organizations are building partnerships across the community to bring the arts to the people—building audiences and creating more opportunities for arts participation.

The arts improve our personal well-being and provide meaning to our lives.

  • Sixty-nine percent of the adult population believe the arts “lift me up beyond everyday experiences,” 73 percent feel the arts give them “pure pleasure to experience and participate in,” and 81 percent say the arts are a “positive experience in a troubled world.”

The arts contribute to our better selves.

  • 72 percent believe “the arts unify our communities regardless of age, race, and ethnicity” and 73 percent agree that the arts “helps me understand other cultures better.” These two figures increased significantly from 67 and 62 percent, respectively, during the past two years.
  • These quality-of-life and well-being benefits are not limited to the affluent, educated, or a particular racial group. Rather, they cut across all socioeconomic strata.

Americans show unequivocal support for arts education.

  • An overwhelming majority of the American public (91 percent) agrees that the arts are part of a well-rounded K-12 education—including 61 percent who “strongly agree.” Just 5 percent disagree about the role the arts play in creating a balanced education for children.
  • Nine in ten adults believe that it is important for students to receive an education in the arts—including dance, media arts, music, theater, and visual arts—as part of the curriculum in elementary school (94 percent), middle school (94 percent), and high school (93 percent).
  • The value of arts education is not limited to just the in-school experience. 89 percent agree to the importance of the arts to students outside of the classroom and throughout the community.

Government funding for the arts is viewed favorably.

  • More than half of Americans approve of arts funding by local government (60 percent), state government (58 percent), federal government (54 percent), and by the National Endowment for the Arts (64 percent).
  • 40 percent believe that the current federal government funding of the arts is not enough, while 25 percent believe it is just right.
  • Not surprisingly, more than twice as many Americans agree that the federal government should increase spending from 45 cents to $1 per person on grants to arts organizations than disagree (53 percent vs. 22 percent).

We love to sing, as long as …

52 percent of adults say, “Yes, I sing in the shower or when no one else is listening.”

Yet, we still have work to do.

Despite the individual and community benefits, just 50 percent of Americans believe that “everyone in their community has equal access to the arts.” We need to maintain the fight for the arts every day and every way. (For a list of 10 reasons to support the arts, see my blog post from earlier this year.)

This is the first in a series of ARTSblog posts about Americans Speak Out About the Arts in 2018, with new posts coming every month. You can download the report, a handy 1-pager, and our shareable infographics at AmericansForTheArts.org/PublicOpinion.

The poll was conducted by Ipsos (the third largest survey research firm in the world) during the week of May 9-16, 2018. To ensure precision in the findings, a nationally representative sample of 3,023 adults were interviewed online (by way of comparison, the typical national poll has a sample size of about 1,000 adults). The accuracy of Ipsos online polls has a credibility interval of ±2.0 percentage points.


Join Randy Cohen on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at 3 p.m. ET for a webinar on ArtsU discussing the results of Americans Speak Out About the Arts in 2018. Register for free anytime to access the recording live or at a later date. 

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