The Cultural Participation Monitor survey asks the question:
In terms of COVID safety, which best describes your attitude to attending...?
- I would be happy to attend if there was something I wanted to see or do
- I would consider attending, but with some reservations about Covid-19 safety
- I would not be comfortable with this until there are significant reductions in risk from Covid-19
- I would not be comfortable until the virus is effectively eradicated
- I would not be interested in doing this
10 months and almost 100 million vaccinations after our initial examination into audiences' willingness to attend, we are taking a look at how people's attitude to in-person cultural engagement has (or has not) changed.
- Attitudes to attending have changed very little, despite external circumstances changing considerably. There remains a roughly equal thirds spilt between those who are happy to, would consider it or [probably] won’t attend.
- Most people think that restricting attendance at events is ‘important’ or ‘very important’ to them feeling comfortable, especially among over 35s.
- A majority of people agree that attendance should be restricted to those with a vaccine or negative test, for all demographic splits, but especially among over 35s and those with a disability.
Browse our findings in more detail and see how the picture differs now from what we were seeing before the world opened up again...
Overall willingness to attend
Perceived Covid-19 related risks are decreasing, while willingness to attend events, especially outdoors, is rising. Willingness to attend overall is up to 39% saying they are ‘happy to attend’ (from 30% in November 2021), whereas 20% people cite Covid-19 as a reason they don’t want to attend.
- People are split on whether the end of Covid-19 rules makes them more or less confident, with around a third for each and the remainder saying neither.
- They are also split on whether their in-person arts attendance will be the same or less than before the pandemic, with about 40% for both. This is itself an increase from November, when more expected to do less than to do more.
Perceived risk from attending indoor events
People still feel far less at risk of contracting the virus at outdoor events.
- 39% of people think the risk of catching or spreading Covid-19 indoors averaged across all cultural events is high/very high, but this reduces to 13% when events are outdoors.
- In comparison 20% assume the same risk when doing day to day activities.
Wider attitudes to COVID-19
Attitudes to Covid-19 are still very divided, with the public holding a broad range of viewpoints.
- Overall, more people say that they think that Covid-19 is not over and that they still take precautions, than say the opposite.
- On the other hand, more also say that it is time to get back to normal and that their own attendance is back to normal.
At an individual level though, people are generally more consistent with assessing risk, or being willing to attend events relative to their attitudes to Covid-19, than this overall picture may suggest. Meaning that the same people who think the threat is low and that we should be getting back to normal, are happy to return to indoor events and plan to spend the same amount on entertainment.
- Those completely happy to attend are much less likely to assess a high risk of Covid-19 indoors, and 3 times more of them think we should accept Covid-19 and live normally compared to the overall population.
- For those who think there’s a low risk, they are less than half as likely as people generally to say their spending on entertainment will decrease a little/a lot.
The groups more/less likely to attend
Older people and those with disabilities or long term health conditions remain the most cautious about 'getting back to normal', while under-25 year-olds are leading the return charge.
- Those who identify as disabled/(D/d)eaf/having a long-term health condition (from now on ‘disabled’) are less likely to say they are back to normal in attending events and are even more likely to say they’ll attend events more locally.
- Normal attendance levels are driven by the 16-24 age group, where over half agree they are back to normal.
- Back to normal attitudes and attendance are also much higher in Asian/Asian British people.
- As expected, the over 65s are more likely to say they won’t attend cultural events as often in the future.
Cultural Attendance Intentions
The headline figures have changed little over the three waves. The main difference that does exist from June to September is that fewer people gave the ‘middle’ response of being comfortable to attend only with significant reduction in risk, but more said they ‘would not be interested’ all together.
Older retirees and people with disabilities were particularly more likely to say that they are 'not interested' in attending live cultural events in September 2021 than had been true in previous waves. Whilst these groups' specific reservations may go some way to explaining the spike, the finding does indicate an overall hardening of people's positions moving into the new normal, with attitudes from previously ambivalent groups now moving from 'I'm hesitant right now' to 'it just doesn't feel safe/right for me'.
Within Wave 4, there were also notable differences between demographic groups (focusing in particular on those who said they were ‘happy to attend’ or ‘would consider with reservations’).
Those more likely to be ‘happy to attend’ were:
- Those with dependant children (38% vs 25% without)
- Younger (esp. 35-44: see chart below)
- Living in urban areas (30% vs 23% in rural areas)
- Without a disability (30% vs 27% with)
- Living in the bottom quartile of Indices of Multiple Deprivation (33% vs. 27%, 27% and 29% for quartiles 2-4).
Safety Measures and Certification
We also asked how important different types of safety measures were for people to feel comfortable attending, for both indoor and outdoor events. The proportions saying ‘very important’ for each were:
Hand sanitiser remains prominent, despite airborne infection being the principle source of transmission.
In terms of ‘vaccine passports’, it is notable that 82% considered that for indoor events ‘Knowing that only those with a vaccination record or a negative COVID-19 test are attending’ was ‘very important’ or ‘important’.
There were demographic splits on this measure, with higher proportions rating it as ‘very important’ who were:
- 35 and older (see chart below)
- Male (43% vs 39% Female)
- With a disability (43% vs 39% without)
We further asked how strongly people agreed or disagreed with a range of statements, including: ‘Only people with a vaccine record or a negative test should be allowed to attend’ and similarly, high proportions ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’. For indoor events, 35% ‘strongly agreed’ and 33% ‘agreed’ (69% total); for outdoor events, 26% ‘strongly agreed’ and 33% ‘agreed’ (59% total).
Again, these results varied by demographics. For indoor events, those who ‘strongly agreed’ were more likely to be:
- With a disability (40% vs 32% without)
- Older (see chart below, which also includes outdoor events)
- Male (37% vs 34% Female)
- Rural (38% vs 34%)
A tale of three stances
- A third of the respondents are still "not comfortable" attending cultural activities before critical mass double vaccination is achieved. Surprisingly, this figure has only risen very slightly since February, despite millions of first doses having been administered in the interim.
- The immediate impact on sales overall, however, is likely to be offset by the enthusiastic return of the third of the population who are “happy to attend”, these being mostly younger and/or more metropolitan respondents.
- Still though, organisations should pay particular attention to the need for reassurance of the third of the market who would attend but “with some reservations”. Social distancing measures remain very important to this major pool of 'gettable' but not guaranteed audiences.
Substantial proportions of the public remain reluctant to attend live events, with little change since February, when post-Christmastime COVID deaths were still extremely high.
- Slightly fewer than one in three are ‘happy to attend’ now (without reservations); fewer than six in ten ‘would [at least] consider’ attending.
- These proportions are higher for those who had attended arts and cultural events in the twelve months before COVID (33% and 67% respectively) but do suggest that one in three previous attenders are not yet ready to attend.
- This reluctance is likely to be lower for historically most frequent attenders, which would mean that it would have greater impact on breadth of audience than total volume.
There are marginal differences in people’s confidence to attend particular types of events.
- Although audience profiles vary between artforms, the overall differences in willingness to attend are moderate.
- People are more confident about outdoor and cinema at one end of the scale and least confident about “indoor museums” at the other.
- Metropolitan audiences – specifically London – are more confident than those elsewhere.
Attitudes vary more by audience 'type' than by artform.
- Younger people are substantially more likely to be happy to attend (double the proportions of 25-34 year olds than those 65+, for example.)
- Differences between London and non-London audiences (based on profile) are more substantial. A few examples are given below1:
- This would suggest that demand-side recovery is likely to be slower outside the capital, which is where further organisational support would be especially beneficial, particularly where business models depend on ticketing income.
- Organisations may need further support if consumer confidence continues to lag, though this need may be masked by early enthusiasm to re-engage among a large minority of the population. It is important not to overestimate longer-term returning patterns based on that minority.
- The relative scarcity of events, pent-up demand and growing “social proof” may see organisations through re-opening before any longer terms crisis of reduced market size hits.
- Monitoring shifts in consumer confidence – rather than levels of vaccination per se – will be all-important in determining the level of longer term crisis that could hit following the initial waves of returners.
The first wave of the COVID-19 Cultural Participation Monitor (fieldwork: late Oct/early Nov 2020) included the question:
In terms of Covid-19 safety, which best describes your attitude to attending...?
- I am happy to attend right now if there was something I wanted to see or do
- I would consider attending, but with some reservations
- I am not comfortable with this at the moment
- I'm not interested in doing this
|This was asked about events in:||And analysed by splits of:|
- Younger audiences were more likely to be happy to attend all three venues.
- Younger audiences were also more likely to have booked already.
- White audiences were more likely to be happy to attend all three venue types.
- Asian/Asian British and Black/Black British audiences were particularly hesitant about events in outdoor settings.
- There was little difference by ethnicity in the proportions who had booked or were interested in booking, with White respondents being slightly less likely.
Region or Nation
- English audiences were more likely to be happy to attend all three venues.
- Scotland, Wales and especially Northern Ireland were much more reluctant.
- London and South East audiences were most likely to have booked or be interested in booking.
- Audiences in Wales in particular were less likely to have booked or be keen to.
- Metroculturals are particularly ready to attend. Commuterland Culturebuffs are more reluctant, for indoor events.
- Metroculturals are particularly likely to have booked or be interested.
- Heydays and Home & Heritage are least likely, but Commuterland Culturebuffs are below the other highly engaged segments.
Summary Findings Nov 2020
Who is more/less likely to attend in person now?
|Audiences were more likely to be happy to attend now if they were:||Audiences were less likely to be happy to attend now if they were:|
Who is more/less likely to book a live event at the moment?
|Audiences were more likely to have already booked or be interested in booking if they were:||Audiences were less likely to have already booked or be interested in booking if they were:|
- This analysis suggests that the return of audiences is likely to be earlier for those who are younger and metropolitan, esp. in London and the South East, with notable reluctance from Heydays, Home & Heritage and Commuterland Culturebuffs.
- This matches the groups who returned between lockdowns*.
- This could mean that there is an aggregate shift toward more experimental, varied and contemporary artforms, and away from more traditional work.
- It may also indicate that audiences are slower to return in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which may require additional support for cultural infrastructure from the devolved administrations.
*See our report ‘Between Lockdowns’ for details.
This report is part of a national research programme led by the Centre for Cultural Value in collaboration with the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre and The Audience Agency.
The project is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) through UK Research and Innovation’s COVID-19 rapid rolling call.