The Humanities in American Life: Insights for Art and Art History
- 11% of American adults visit art museums or attend arts events often, and another 29% do so “sometimes.”
- Americans with a college degree are more likely than those with a high school education or less to make art-related outings, but education is not found to be predictive of literary event attendance.
- Higher-income Americans are more likely to have visited art museums or attend art events, but less likely to attend poetry and literary events.
- Hispanics and Black Americans are nearly three times as likely to have frequently attended poetry/literature readings and other literary events as White Americans, and the youngest adults (ages 18 to 29) are more than twice as likely as those 45 and older.
- American attitudes about the arts and the humanities are similar, both in the shares of Americans with a very favorable impression of the two terms and in the differences among demographic groups.
- Strong support for STEM fields is greater among higher-income Americans than among the less affluent, while arts and humanities elicit similar levels of strong support across all income categories.
- Self-identified political liberals are more likely than conservatives to have a very favorable impression of the terms arts and science. For arts, however, the gap (26 percentage points) between liberals and conservatives dwarfs the gap for science.
In Childhood and Education
- 10% of Americans recall their parents discussing art frequently.
- Half of Americans feel it is important that K–12 students learn art history and appreciation (which is the lowest level of support among the 10 humanities subjects in the survey).
- More than half of women (55%) consider art history/appreciation important for a child’s education, compared to 44% of men.
- Conservatives are markedly less likely than liberal Americans, and somewhat less likely than moderates, to consider art history/appreciation important for young people to learn.
- While 56% of Americans in the bottom income quartile feel art history/appreciation is important for young people, only 45% of the most affluent Americans feel the same. Art history/appreciation is the only subject included in the survey that elicited more support from lower-income Americans than from the more affluent.
- 12% of Americans feel that art history/appreciation is best taught outside of school, a larger share than for most of the humanities subjects in the survey.
- While 22% of Americans wish they had taken more art history and appreciation courses in school, there is a notable gender divide (as 26% of women hold this view compared to just 19% of men).
- Conservative Americans are substantially less likely than liberals to wish that art history/appreciation had been a bigger part of their education.
These findings capture only a small slice of the larger study. Visit https://bit.ly/HumSurvey for the full report of the survey findings, including responses to questions about the humanities as a whole, visualizations comparing art to the other subjects, and a detailed summary of the responses to every question by gender, age, and other key demographics.
A Guide to Interpreting These Findings
The findings described here are based on a sample of Americans, weighted to produce estimates for the U.S. adult population as a whole. The reported values are estimates and thus have a measure of error (also an estimate) associated with them.
By virtue of the error associated with each estimate (either for the entire adult population or a particular demographic group), observed differences between them may be due to the sample that happened to be drawn for this survey rather than a difference between the actual values in the adult population, which could be known only if a census were conducted. For this reason, only differences between estimates that were found to be statistically significant at the 5% level are noted.
Statistical significance gauges the reliability of an observed difference between two estimates. It indicates how certain one can be that the difference between the two values could actually be found in the adult population and is not due to chance (i.e., not due to the particular sample of adults that was surveyed as part of the study). If a difference between two groups (e.g., Asian and White Americans, or Asian Americans and the entire adult population) is significant at the 5% level, it means that if there were really no difference between the two groups, a difference as large or larger than the one observed in our sample would be found only 5% of the time.