U.S. Trends in Arts Attendance and Literary Reading: 2002-2017

A First Look at Results from the 2017 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts

This research booklet shows the rates at which adults in the United States have been attending arts events—and reading works of literature—over a 15-year period. Art-going (e.g., art museum visits, performing arts attendance) and literary reading (e.g., novel- or poetry-reading) are two conspicuous ways that well over 100 million Americans engage with art throughout the year. But there is also the use of electronic and online media to access and share artworks, the personal creation or performance of artworks (whether or not through electronic/online media), and formal or informal arts education. The Survey of Public Participation in the Arts (SPPA) is a reliable tool for measuring U.S. adults’ rates of taking part in these varied and enriching arts experiences.

In partnership with the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Endowment for the Arts has conducted the SPPA seven times since 1982. This booklet is occasioned by release of data from the 2017 SPPA. Like previous waves of the survey, the 2017 questionnaire asked Americans aged 18 and older whether they had participated in distinct types of arts activity in the preceding 12 months. The present document focuses, however, on arts attendance and literary reading. The reason is that the survey question-items for these topics have changed minimally over the years, in contrast to other sections of the SPPA. Therefore, analysis of long-term trends is possible for these two broad types of arts activity.

Source: Preface