Twelve Things Americans Believe About the Arts in 2018

Posted by Mr. Randy Cohen, Nov 19, 2018

There are many studies that document the social, educational, and economic benefits of the arts to communities. But how does the American public feel about the role of the arts in their lives? Do they value arts education and support government funding of the arts? How important is creativity at home and at work?  We put these questions directly to the public to find out.

“Americans Speak Out about the Arts in 2018” was conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs for Americans for the Arts in May 2018. It is based on a nationally representative sample of 3,023 American adults, making it one of the largest public opinion studies about the arts ever conducted.  As one might expect when hearing from the public, we find a mix of assumptions challenged and observations confirmed.

Following are 12 highlights from the study. You can download them as a handy one-pager here. The full report and a host of tools and infographics are available here

Americans are highly engaged in the arts and believe more strongly than ever that the arts promote personal well-being, help us understand other cultures in our community, are essential to a well-rounded K-12 education, and that government has an important role in funding the arts.

  1. “The arts provide meaning to our lives.” 69 percent of Americans 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.”
  2. “The arts unify our communities.” The personal benefits of the arts extend beyond the individual to the community. 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.”
  3. Most of us seek out arts experiences.” Nearly three-quarters of the adult population (72 percent) attended an arts or cultural event during the previous year, such as the theater, museum, zoo, or a musical performance.
  4. “We experience the arts in unexpected places.” Americans also enjoy the arts in "non-traditional" venues, such as a symphony in the park, a performance in an airport, or exhibitions in a hospital or shopping mall (70 percent).
  5.  “There is near universal support for arts education. 91 percent agree that the arts are part of a well-rounded K-12 education. Over 90 percent say students should receive an education in the arts in elementary school, middle school, and high school. 89 percent say the arts should also be taught outside of the classroom in the community.
  6. “We support government arts funding at all levels.” Most 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).
  7. “We will vote for candidates who increase arts funding.” 53 percent support increasing federal government spending on nonprofit arts organizations (vs. 22 percent against). Americans are twice as likely to vote for a candidate who increases federal arts spending from 45 cents to $1 per person than against one (37 percent vs. 18 percent).
  8. “We make art in our personal time.” Half of all Americans are personally involved in art-making activities such as painting, singing in a choir, making crafts, writing poetry, or playing music (47 percent).
  9. “Creativity boosts job success.” 55 percent of employed adults say their job requires them to “be creative and come up with ideas that are new and unique.” An even greater proportion (60 percent) say that the more creative and innovative they are at their job, the more successful they are in the workplace.
  10. Cultural institutions add value to our community.” Whether people engage with the arts or not, 90 percent believe cultural facilities (theaters, museums, sculpture parks, neighborhood arts centers) improve quality of life, and 86 percent believe cultural facilities are important to local business and the economy.
  11.  “We donate to the arts.” 24 percent of the population donated to an arts, culture, or public broadcasting organization in the previous year. Donors were typically younger and had higher incomes and education.
  12. “Not everyone in my community has equal access to the arts.” Despite many benefits that the arts bring to individuals and communities, just 50 percent believe that “everyone in their community has equal access to the arts.”