The Arts and the Quality of Life: The Attitudes of Ontarians

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Based on a telephone survey of 1,000 adult Ontarians, this report highlights public perceptions regarding the value and benefits of the arts. Comparisons are provided with a similar survey conducted in 1994.

The survey results indicate that, when Ontarians think of "the arts", they most commonly think of music or concerts as well as drama, plays or theatre. Following this are the visual arts (painting, sculpture, etc.), museums, galleries or exhibitions, as well as dance or ballet. Only 6% of Ontarians associate the arts with literature, writing or books, and the same percentage associate the arts with movies.

Regarding the statement that arts activities help enrich the quality of our lives, 64% of adult Ontarians strongly agree and another 31% somewhat agree. In a similar question regarding their own quality of life (rather than the more general quality of "our" lives), a smaller proportion (43%) indicated that the arts are "very important" to their own quality of life, and another 38% believe that the arts are "somewhat important".

A separate question asked respondents who benefits more from the presence of the arts, the whole community or arts attendees themselves. About two-thirds of Ontarians (64%) selected the whole community.

The most commonly mentioned personal benefits of attending or participating in arts activities include "entertainment or fun" (unprompted, 36% of Ontarians mentioned these items), learning or experiencing something new (22%), and don't know or not applicable (19%). Between 11% and 16% of Ontarians mentioned three other benefits: emotional, spiritual or intellectual stimulation (16%); exposure to different cultures (14%); and the opportunity to socialize with friends (11%).

The survey also reveals that, among adult Ontarians:

  • 64% strongly agree that "the success of Canadian artists like singers, writers, actors and painters, gives people a sense of pride in Canadian achievement", and another 31% somewhat agree.
  • 57% strongly agree that, "if my community lost its arts activities, people living there would lose something of value". Another 32% somewhat agree with this statement.
  • 57% strongly disagree that arts activities do little or nothing for the well-being of a community, and another 20% somewhat disagree.
  • 51% think that, whether or not they personally use them regularly, arts facilities are "very important" to the quality of life in their community. Another 40% think that arts facilities are "somewhat important".
  • 38% strongly agree that "government should spend public dollars to support the arts", and another 43% somewhat agree.
  • 34% would "very much" miss the arts if no arts were available in their community, while another 39% would "somewhat" miss the arts.
  • 33% often participated in the arts when they were a child, and another 31% participated occasionally "in the arts, either by attending arts activities like going to plays, galleries or concerts or by doing arts activities yourself like acting, singing or playing a musical instrument".
  • 29% often participated in the arts during the last couple of years, while another 40% participated occasionally.

The demographic correlations for a number of questions show that there are higher levels of support for the arts from women, university-educated Ontarians, residents of larger communities, those with childhood arts education experiences, and those with a higher frequency of adult participation in the arts.

The strongest level of agreement increased for a number of indicators between 1994 and 2010, including:

  • the view that the arts are "very important" to respondents' own quality of life (an increase of 6 percentage points);
  • strong agreement with the statement that arts activities help enrich the quality of our lives (an increase of 6 percentage points);
  • the perception that respondents would miss the arts "very much" if no arts were available in their community (an increase of 6 percentage points); and
  • the belief that arts facilities are "very important" to their community's quality of life (an increase of 5 percentage points).

While many of the results were fairly positive, the arts were not seen to be as important to local quality of life as some other local amenities. "Looking at overall importance, arts facilities (91%) are seen on par with public transit (91%) to their community's quality of life, but are seen as less important than parks and green spaces (99%), and sports and recreational facilities (97%)." The "very important" ranking for arts facilities is much lower than the same ranking for each of the three other types of amenities.

Across a number of survey questions, it is apparent that approximately one in five Ontarians do not see the value of the arts. About 20% of Ontarians indicated that:

  • the arts are either "not very" or "not at all" important to their own quality of life;
  • the arts do either little or nothing for their community;
  • they would miss the arts "hardly at all" or "not at all" if no arts were available in their community;
  • they do not know or have no opinion about any benefits of attending or participating in arts activities; and
  • they disagree either "somewhat" or "strongly" with public funding of the arts.

The report does not highlight any specific demographic characteristics of this group of Ontarians who do not believe in the value of the arts, focussing instead on those who do believe in its value.

Summary: 

Based on a telephone survey of 1,000 adult Ontarians, this report highlights public perceptions regarding the value and benefits of the arts. Comparisons are provided with a similar survey conducted in 1994.

Legacy ID (artUID): 
50666