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Impressions of the Impact of the Arts on Quality of Life and Well-Being in Ontario

August 23, 201723 August 2017

Public perception of the arts and culture

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This report presents the results of a random telephone survey of 1,004 Ontario residents (18 and older) in early March 2017, bearing a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Respondents were asked a series of questions about their perceptions of the arts in Ontario, with specific questions regarding the quality of life, well-being, identity, belonging, and public arts funding. Comparisons with similar surveys in 1994 and 2010 are also provided for questions that were asked in all three years.

A vast majority of Ontarians believe that the arts are somewhat or very important to their own lives (85%) and to life in their community (90%). There has been a slight increase over time in the proportion of Ontarians believing in the importance of the arts in their own lives (from 79% in 1994 to 85% in 2017), an increase that was driven by a higher proportion of respondents saying that the arts are “very important” in their own lives (from 36% in 1994 to 43% in 2017).

Respondents were also asked negative questions related to the importance of the arts in their communities, and small (but not negligible) numbers agree that “arts activities do little or nothing for the well-being of a community” (19%) or that they “wouldn’t care if things like art galleries, theatres and activities like plays, music or dance stopped happening in my community” (15%).

At least nine in ten survey respondents agree with the following positive statements about the importance of the arts and culture in Ontario:

  • “Engaging children in the arts is important to their overall development” (97%)
  • “Arts activities help enrich the quality of our lives” (93%)
  • “The arts help us understand other cultures better” (91%)
  • “An active local arts scene helps make a community a better place to live” (90%)
  • “Arts experiences help bring people from diverse backgrounds together as a community” (90%)

Five other positive statements received slightly smaller majority support (i.e., between 79% and 88%), with the importance of government investment and links to business development receiving the lowest levels of agreement (but still a strong majority):

  • “Participating in arts activities builds a shared sense of community identity” (88%)
  • “The arts help us express and define what it means to be Canadian” (86%)
  • “Helping make the arts available to people in Ontario is an important government investment” (82%)
  • “An active local arts scene helps communities attract businesses” (80%)
  • “Government should spend public dollars to invest in the arts” (79%)

The survey results are broken down by region of Ontario, gender, and age, with most questions showing relatively little variation by these characteristics. Where there are differences, they tend to show broader support among women than men, among Toronto area residents than those in other regions, and among younger respondents than older ones.

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