Public Support for Arts and Culture at National and Local Levels

Categories: Blog
Why This Matters: The majority of Mecklenburg residents believe that arts and culture is good for the well-being of their neighborhoods, communities and them personally.
Charlotte Ballet instructor Javonne Gbenyon-Spearman leads a Cultural Dance program. QCityMetro photo.
Charlotte Ballet instructor Javonne Gbenyon-Spearman leads a Cultural Dance program. QCityMetro photo.

Americans have always been highly supportive of the arts and culture, grounded in the belief that they deliver all sorts of societal benefit from encouraging personal well-being and mutual understanding to serving as an essential part of a well-rounded education.

These perceptions were again validated in a national study conducted by Americans for the Arts, titled “Americans Speak Out About the Arts 2018” – among the largest national public opinion surveys of its kind.

Among its key findings:

  • “Overwhelming” support for arts education: 91-percent believe the arts are part of a well-rounded K-12 education; nine in ten believe students at elementary, middle and high school levels should receive instruction in the arts, including dance, media arts, music, theater, and visual arts.
  • Promoting understanding and unity: 73-percent believe the arts promote better understanding of diverse cultures; 72-percent believe they unify communities regardless of age, race, and ethnicity. Such quality-of-life benefits are not limited to the wealthy, educated, or a racial or ethnic group; they cut across all demographics.
  • Personal benefits: Large majorities agreed with statements that the arts “lift me up beyond everyday experiences” (69-percent); provide “pleasure to experience and participate in” (73-percent); and are a “positive experience in a troubled world” (81-percent).

The study also reported high levels of engagement nationally, with 72-percent of respondents having attended an arts or cultural event during the previous year; 70-percent had the experience in a “non-traditional” setting such as a park, hospital, shopping mall or even an airport.

 At the local level, Mecklenburg County residents are remarkably supportive of and committed to their arts and cultural sector, according to the most recent Cultural Live in Mecklenburg County Survey conducted by the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. It reported that 88-percent of residents are satisfied with the availability of cultural experiences, 62-percent feel the programming reflects the community’s diversity and 65-percent rated the quality of the offerings as good or excellent.

Emblematic of their commitment to the arts, 84-percent of respondents said they would travel to a different market to attend a program of interest if it was not available locally.

Strong engagement among local residents mimics national levels as well. The Urban Institute survey reported that attendance at programs supported by ASC topped 3.1 million in 2018 – a whopping 500,000 more derriers in seats than all of professional sports games in the county combined.

Dovetailing with support and engagement narratives, Americans generally believe public funding at all levels is justified.

The Americans for the Arts study reported that 64-percent of respondents approve arts funding by the National Endowment for the Arts, 60-percent by local government; 58-percent by states; and 54-percent by the federal government. Moreover, a majority would support doubling federal government spending on nonprofit arts organizations from 45 cents to $1 per capita.

There strong support Mecklenburg County residents have for the arts and culture sector extends to public funding. In addition to the Urban Institute finding that nearly 80-percent of residents support local government funding for arts, science and history programs, The Survey on Arts Initiatives for Mecklenburg County, NC – conducted for the Charlotte Regional Business Alliance and presented to the Mecklenburg County Board of County Commissioners in April – found that 70-percent of residents would support a quarter-of-a-penny sales tax if they knew the funding would increase access to arts, science, history and heritage experiences for residents and especially children.

The majority of Mecklenburg residents, according to the survey, believe that arts and culture is good for the well-being of their neighborhoods, communities and them personally. That belief is evident not only through the high level of engagement in arts and cultural experiences seen throughout Mecklenburg County, but through the willingness of residents to consider public funding for the arts.