Princeton University Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies - A Program of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
CACPS HOME
QUICK FACTS:

How Many People Participate in Arts and Cultural Activities?

Attending Arts Events or Cultural Institutions

Number of Individuals Attending Arts Events or Cultural Institutions

The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts 2002 (SPPA) found that 39 percent of the adult population of the United States attended at least one of seven "benchmark" arts activities (jazz, classical music, opera, musical plays, plays, ballet, or art museums) in the twelve months prior to the survey. (This proportion excludes elementary, middle, and high school performances.) This translates to an estimated 81 million American adults who were exposed to at least one of these seven arts activities [National Endowment for the Arts Research Division, 2003. "Survey of Public Participation in the Arts 2002". NEA Research Division Note #83, Washington, DC: National Endowment for the Arts].

When the list of arts-related activities is expanded to include four others (visiting historic sites, attending arts or crafts fairs, attending dance performances other than ballet, and reading "plays, poetry, novels, or short stories"), the overall rate of public participation increases to two out of three American adults (65%; 134 million) who participated in at least one of these eleven activities during the 12 months leading up to the 2002 SPPA study.

Bar graph: Particiapation in arts and cultural activities - 2002.

The highest level of attendance among the seven benchmark arts activities was for art museums and galleries, visited by slightly more than a quarter of all adults (26.5%, or about 54.3 million people) at least once during the previous 12 months.

Musical plays and non-musical plays ranked second and third, respectively, in terms of attendance. About one in six adults (17.1%; 35.1 million) went to at least one performance of a musical play. One in eight adults (12.3%; 25.2 million) went to a non-musical play.

About the same number of adults went to live classical music performances (11.6%; 23.8) as attended non-musical plays, while about one in nine saw a live jazz performance (10.8%; 22.2 million).

Roughly one in twenty-five American adults (3.9%; 8 million) went to the ballet, while about one in thirty (3.2%; 6.6 million) went to an opera.

The 2002 SPPA also included attendance data for four other arts and cultural activities, three of which had high levels of participation. Close to one third of U.S. adults (31.6% or 64.7 million people) visited a historic park/building/monument/neighborhood during the past year. About the same number attended arts festivals, art fairs, craft festivals, or craft fairs (33.4%; 68.4 million).

Also, just under half of adults (46.3%; 95.3 million) said that they had read plays, poetry, novels, or short stories in the past year. More specifically, 44.7% said that they had read a novel or short story within the past year, 12% had read poetry in the past 12 months, and 3.6% had read plays in the past year.

Finally, attendance at dance performances other than ballet (6.3%; 12.1 million) was about a third higher than the attendance at ballet performances (3.9%, 8 million).

Frequency of Attendance

In 2002, the average annual number of visits to each of the seven benchmark arts activities ranged from a high of 3.5 for art museums and galleries to a low of 1.7 for ballet. The average frequency of attendance at both live jazz concerts and classical music performances was slightly lower than at art museums/galleries -- 3.1 times in the past year. Attendees of non-musical plays and musical theater averaged 2.3 visits each per year. Rates of attendance were lowest for opera and ballet, at 2.0 and 1.7 visits per year, respectively.

Bar graph: Frequency of participation in arts and cultural activities - 2002.

So, not only did more American adults visit an art museum or gallery in 2002 (54.3 million), they also visited museums and galleries more frequently (3.5 times in the past 12 months) than they attended any of the other six arts activities. As a result, the total estimated attendance at art museums and galleries in the 12-month period leading up to the 2002 SPPA study was 190.6 million adults.

Conversely, not only did opera rank lowest among these seven arts activities in terms of total aficionados (6.6 million adults who attended in 2002), it ranked second lowest in frequency of attendance (2.0 visits in the past 12 months). So, the total estimated attendance at opera performances in the 12 months leading up to the 2002 SPPA study was 13.3 million adults.

Also worth noting is that while fewer individuals attended either jazz or classical music concerts in the past 12 months (22.2 and 23.8 million adults, respectively) than attended non-musical plays (25.2 million), they attended jazz and classical music events more frequently. As a result, the estimated total number of attendees at jazz and classical music concerts in 2002 (68.8 and 72.8 million adults, respectively) exceeded the total number of attendees at non-musical plays (58.7 million). The total number of attendees at musical plays in the 12-month period leading up to the 2002 SPPA study was 79.3 million adults.

With respect to other arts and cultural activities, the attendance rate for historic sites was the highest of all arts-related activities covered in the 2002 SPPA, at an average of 3.6 visits per year. With 64.7 million adults reporting having attended an historic site in 2002, the estimated total attendance at historic sites in the 12 months leading up to the 2002 SPPA study was 231 million, far larger than the total attendance for any other arts-related activity.

Although slightly more people reported visiting an art fair, art festival, craft fair, or craft festival in 2002 (68.4 million adults) than visited historic sites (64.7 million), the average frequency of attendance at such fairs was 2.4 visits per year (compared to 3.6 visits per year for historic sites). So, the total attendance at arts and craft fairs was about 164.1 million, larger than most other arts-related activities, but substantially lower than total attendance at historic sites.

The average annual number of visits to dance performances other than ballet was 2.0, resulting in an estimated total attendance of about 24.6 million in 2002.

Participation in the Arts through Media

Because of the widespread availability of the arts through various media (television, radio, audio and video recordings, etc.), Americans have many opportunities to participate in the arts through media, as well as through actual attendance at arts events. The most common form of arts participation through media in 2002 was watching programs about the visual arts on television, videotape, or DVD -- a pastime engaged in by a quarter of American adults (25%; 51 million). The least common form of mediated participation was listening to non-musical plays on the radio (2.1%, 4.3 million).

The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts 2002 also asked, for the first time, about Americans' use of the Internet to learn about, listen to, or discuss the arts. Internet usage was greatest for music-related topics and lowest for opera-related topics.

Altogether, an estimated 56 percent of American adults (115 million) participated in the arts through media (including the Internet) during the 12 months prior to the SPPA 2002.

Television, Videotape, and DVD

It is possible to view all seven benchmark arts activities either on television, videotape, or DVD. Mirroring the findings for participation through attendance, the highest rate of participation via TV, videotape, or DVD consisted of viewing programming about the visual arts (25% of American adults; 51 million).

Bar graph: Participation in arts and cultural activities via TV, Videotapes, or DVD  - 2002.

This was followed by viewing classical music on TV, videotape, or DVD, an activity engaged in by 18.1% (37 million) of American adults. Slightly over one-sixth of adults reported viewing jazz music performances on TV, videotape, or DVD (16.4%; 33.5 million).

About one person in eight (12.6%; 25.7 million) reported viewing dance on TV, videotape or DVD. (It is important to note that the question asked in the 2002 SPPA about participation in dance through the media differed from the questions asked about participation in dance through attending performances, rendering these questions non-comparable. The media participation question asked, "With the exception of music videos, did you watch on television, a video (VCR) tape, or a video (DVD) disc dance such as ballet, modern, folk, or tap during the last 12 months?" The attendance questions asked specifically about attendance at ballet performances and about attendance at dance performances other than ballet.)

About one person in nine (11.7%; 24 million) reported watching a musical play on TV, videotape, or DVD, while about one in ten (9.4%; 19.2 million) watched non-musical plays in the 12-month period prior to the 2002 SPPA.

Nearly 6% of the adult population (11.9 million) viewed opera performances on TV, Videotape or DVD. While this was the smallest audience for an arts activity viewed through these media (among the seven benchmark activities covered by the SPPA), this was nearly twice the number of people who saw an opera performance in person (3.2% or 6.6 million people).

Radio

Nearly a quarter of American adults (23.9%; 48.9 million) reported listening to classical music on the radio in the 12-month period prior to the 2002 SPPA. About the same number reported listening to jazz music on the radio (23.5%; 48 million). In both cases, these proportions were higher than the comparable proportions of American adults who viewed classical and jazz music performances on TV, videotape or DVD (18.1% and 16.4%, respectively).

Bar graph: Participation in arts and cultural activities via radio - 2002.

Opera does not follow the same pattern. About 5.7% of American adults listened to opera performances on the radio (11.7 million), and about the same proportion (5.8%; 11.9 million) viewed an opera performance on TV, videotape or DVD.

Participation via the radio drops off sharply for both musical plays and non-musical plays. In both cases, just over 2 percent of American adults (about 4.5 million people) listened on the radio, compared to about 10 percent of the population who viewed plays on TV, videotape or DVD.

Audio Recordings (Records, Tapes, and Compact Disc)

The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts 2002 (SPPA) asked respondents whether they had listened to jazz music, classical music, opera, and musical plays on records, tapes, or compact discs during the past year. The greatest percentage of "participation" through recordings was for classical music at 19.3% (39.5 million people). This is only slightly higher than the 18.1% who watched classical music on TV, videotape or DVD, although less than the percentage (23.9%) who reported listening to classical music on the radio.

Bar graph: Participation in arts and cultural activities via audio recordings -2002.

About 17 percent of adults (35.2 million) reported listening to jazz via audio recordings during the 12 months prior to the 2002 SPPA. As was the case with classical music, slightly fewer people watched televised or taped jazz performances (16.4%, 33.5 million) than listened to jazz via audio recordings, while a larger proportion (23.5%; 48 million) reported listening to jazz on the radio.

For opera, about the same percentage of adults listened to recorded opera performances (5.5%) as listened to opera on the radio (5.7%), and viewed opera performances on television (5.8%).

Less than half as many American adults (4.3%; 8.8 million) listened to musical plays on records, tapes, or compact discs, as viewed musical plays (11.7%; 24 million) on TV, Videotape, or DVD. An even lower proportion (2.4%; 4.9 million) listened to musical plays on the radio.

About 12.4 percent (25.5 million) of adults said they listened to audio recordings of novels or poetry.

The Internet

Respondents to the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts 2002 were asked to report on their use of the Internet in accessing arts-related material. About 13.1% (27 million) used the Internet to explore all types of music. Just over 9% (19 million) used the Internet to investigate literature. The third most popular topic of exploration was the visual arts (5.9%; 12.1 million), followed by plays (4.1%; 8.4 million), and opera (1.3%; 2.7 million).

Bar graph: participation in arts and cultural activitis via the Internet - 2002

Personal Engagement in Artistic Activities

In addition to involvement in arts and cultural activities as an audience member or consumer, an individual may also participate personally in the creation of artistic products or performances. The range of artistic activities an individual may engage in is quite wide. The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts 2002 includes information about nine kinds of involvement in the performing arts, four visual arts and crafts activities, and creative writing.

Specifically, information was gathered about whether an individual had personally engaged in each of the following activities within the past 12 months:

  • Performed or rehearsed jazz music
  • Played classical music
  • Sang music from an opera
  • Sang music from an operetta or musical theater
  • Danced ballet
  • Engaged in any other dancing, such as modern, folk, or tap
  • Sang in or rehearsed for a public performance of a chorale, choir, glee club, or other type of vocal group
  • Acted in or rehearsed for a public performance of a non-musical play
  • Wrote or composed music
  • Engaged in weaving, crocheting, quilting, needlework, or sewing
  • Created pottery, ceramics, jewelry, leatherwork, or metalwork
  • Made photographs, movies, or videotapes as an artistic activity
  • Engaged in painting, drawing, sculpture, or printmaking
  • Engaged in creative writing, such as stories, poems, or plays

The percentage of adults who personally engaged in artistic activities ranged from a low of 0.3% for ballet (0.6 million adults) to a high of 16% for needlework (about 32.7 million adults). Altogether, 44% of American adults (90 million) personally participated in at least one of these activities in the 12 months prior to the 2002 SPPA.

Personal Engagement in the Performing Arts

The most popular performing arts activity was participating in a choir or chorus. About one in every twenty adults (4.8%, 9.8 million) said that they had participated in a choir or chorus within the 12 months prior to the 2002 SPPA.

Bar graph: Personal engagement in the performing arts - 2002.
This is followed by the 4.2% (or 8.6 million adults) who performed dance (other than ballet, including modern, folk or tap). About half as many American adults performed in musical plays (2.4%; 4.9 million).

While composing music is a not a form of performance per se, it also falls within the realm of performing arts. Just over 2% of American adults (4.7 million) reported composing music. This was followed by performing classical music (1.8%; 3.7 million), participation in non-musical plays (1.4%; 2.9 million), and performing jazz music (1.3%; 2.7 million).

The lowest levels of personal engagement in performing arts activity are found with ballet and opera. Less than one percent of adults sang opera in their personal lives (0.7%; 1.4 million), while less than half of one percent danced ballet (0.3%; 0.6 million).

[It should be noted that type of music -- classical, jazz, folk, pop, rock, rap, etc. -- was not specified in either the question about composing music or the question about singing. Since the amount of training, the number of venues for performances, the experience required of singers, and so forth, varies considerably across genres, these figures should be interpreted with caution.]

Personal Engagement in the Visual Arts, Crafts, and Creative Writing

The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts 2002 (SPPA) asked about personal engagement in four categories of visual arts and crafts activities: 1) painting/drawing; 2) pottery/jewelry; 3) weaving/sewing; and 4) photography. More American adults engaged in needle crafts than in any other arts-related activity (16%, 32.7 million adults). Taking photographic pictures (as an artistic activity) ranked second, involving 11.5% of adults (23.5 million), followed by painting/drawing at 8.6% (17.6 million), and creating pottery or jewelry at 6.9% (14.1 million).

Bar graph: Personal engagement in the visual arts and literature - 2002.

A final area of arts-related activity investigated by the 2002 SPPA was creative writing (plays, poetry, novels, short stories). About one in fourteen adults (7%; 14.4 million) did some creative writing in the 12 months prior to the 2002 SPPA.

 

Princeton University Home Tel: (609) 258-5180; E-mail: artspol@princeton.edu