Public Sentiments Towards the Arts:
A Critical Reanalysis of 13 Opinion Surveys
Working Paper #5, 1998
Becky Pettit & Paul DiMaggio
This paper summarizes and reviews studies of public perceptions
of and sentiments towards the arts. It provides the first critical
synthesis of such research based upon original secondary analyses
of thirteen of the major data sets collected between 1973 and
1993. In so doing, it reports on what the surveys tell us about
several questions of pressing interest to policy makers and others
interested in the role of the arts in American society. To what
extent do Americans support government funding of the arts, and
from what level of government? To what extent do Americans believe
that it is important for children to learn about the arts and
that the arts are worthy of inclusion in the school curriculum?
To what extent do Americans regard the arts as fundamentally important
for the quality of community life, on the one hand, or the domain
of a select few, on the other? To what extent do sentiments vary
between men and women, African-Americans and Euro-Americans, the
highly educated and the less schooled, the old and the young,
and the wealthy and the less well off? And finally, what, if anything,
can we infer about how these patterns have changed over time?
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