Latest research shows New Zealanders more positive than ever about vital role the arts play in our lives, despite COVID-19

14 Jun 2021

This content is tagged as Creative NZ .

NEWS

Dancers performing on stage outdoors in front of a large crowd.
Cuba Dupa 2021. Photography by Oliver Crawford.

Creative New Zealand’s latest triennial research into New Zealanders’ attitudes towards and engagement with the arts show the arts are making a powerful contribution to our wellbeing and are helping us get through COVID-19.

More people are also appreciating the important role that the arts play in connecting whānau and communities, but access could be improved. The arts are helping more of us explore and build our own sense of identity too, as well as growing our connections with other New Zealanders.

While we’re feeling better than ever about the arts, New Zealanders’ engagement with the arts has taken a hit due to COVID-19. Despite attendance at the arts declining somewhat, participation has held steady, and how we want to experience the arts is changing.

More sentiments like these, along with data and trends, are included in Creative New Zealand’s latest triennial survey, New Zealanders and the Arts – Ko Aotearoa me ōna Toiwhich was released by the organisation today.

Every three years, Creative New Zealand commissions independent research into New Zealanders’ attitudes towards, attendance at, and participation in the arts – the only longitudinal survey of its kind in Aotearoa.

The 2020 research, conducted by independent research company Colmar Brunton, is the sixth edition, which first began in 2005.

“As ever, New Zealanders and the Arts — Ko Aotearoa me ōna Toi gives us much to think about in terms of the value the arts bring to our lives,” says Creative New Zealand Chief Executive Stephen Wainwright. 

“Just as we know there’s power in great stories, there’s also immense value in good research too. It helps highlight how things are now, how they were, and where they might be heading. Over the coming months we’ll look at which aspects of the findings we might further explore – but first, we want to get the research out into the world, especially to the arts community for them to digest and respond to.”

Colmar Brunton conducted two surveys in 2020 for New Zealanders and the Arts — Ko Aotearoa me ōna Toi: one with adults (aged 15 and over) and one with young people (aged 10–14).

For the first time, there are also dedicated reports exploring Māori, Pasifika and Asian New Zealanders’ relationship with the arts. A report on New Zealanders with lived experience of disability and their relationship with the arts has also been prepared for the first time, as well as the regional and city reports that premiered in 2017.

All these reports are available online: www.creativenz.govt.nz/nzersandthearts

Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, Hon Carmel Sepuloni, says New Zealanders and the Arts — Ko Aotearoa me ōna Toi provides a rich picture of the positive impact the arts have on our lives, for both adults and young people alike.

“The 2020 research provides much for us to acknowledge, reflect on, and celebrate. I’m not surprised to see the impact of the arts on New Zealanders’ wellbeing, especially through COVID-19.”

She continues, “Inclusion and access are important areas to me as the Minister for Disability Issues as well as Social Development and Employment, so I’m pleased to see more perspectives from our country’s diverse communities reflected in this latest research.”

A summary of the research, produced by Creative New Zealand, holds up five key insights:

  • New Zealanders are more positive than ever about the vital role the arts play in our lives.
  • The arts are making a powerful contribution to New Zealanders’ wellbeing, and are helping us get through COVID-19.
  • More New Zealanders appreciate the arts’ powerful role in connecting whānau and communities, but access to the arts could be improved.
  • The arts are helping more of us explore and build our own sense of identity, as well as growing our connections with other New Zealanders.
  • Attendance has declined but participation has held steady, and how we want to experience the arts is changing.

The data that sits behind each of these statements are included in the research summary, which has been produced in PDF, Easy Read and plain text formats.

Read the research summary

Behind these headlines there are fascinating shifts; some of which are outlined below.

Attitudes towards the arts are at a record high

For the first time, positive attitudes toward the arts hit the 80% mark, with four out of five New Zealanders agreeing that the arts help to develop and foster creativity, and people feel proud when New Zealand artists succeed overseas.

The impact of COVID-19

Looking across the data, the impact of COVID-19 is evident. Attendance fell by 5% compared to 2017 – down to 68% – largely through a decline in performing arts attendance. This isn’t surprising, given the intense and prolonged difficulties in staging performance arts events in 2020.

But COVID-19 did bring to life for us the importance of the arts for our own wellbeing. Nearly a third of New Zealanders (31%) agree that arts and culture have supported their wellbeing through the COVID-19 crisis. For one in four people (26%), the arts have become more important to their personal wellbeing since COVID-19 arrived in Aotearoa. Almost half of us (48%) agree that arts and culture have a vital role to play in rebuilding New Zealand after the COVID-19 crisis.

Positive shift in the attitudes of young people – especially boys

The 2020 research has seen a dramatic and positive shift in the attitudes of young people, especially for boys. 

In the last research conducted three years ago, boys were well behind girls when it came to how they saw themselves creatively. In 2017, 77% of girls agreed that doing creative things made them feel ‘excellent’ or ‘good’, compared with 57% of boys. This time, 86% of girls felt positive, but boys leapt up to 73%. 

Creative New Zealand will explore the key findings further over the coming months, following reactions and feedback from the arts sector and identifying other important areas to explore. 

A companion survey – Audience Atlas New Zealand 2020 – will be published later in the year. It provides a detailed insights into New Zealanders’ relationship with arts, which arts and cultural organisations can use to increase audience engagement. 

Where to find more information

On Creative New Zealand’s research hub you can find:

  • Creative New Zealand’s summary of the 2020 research – including Easy Read and plain text formats
  • the full detailed reports on adults and young people from Colmar Brunton
  • dedicated reports exploring Māori, Pasifika and Asian New Zealanders’ relationship with the arts, as well as one-page summaries on each report
  • a report on New Zealanders with lived experience of disability and their relationship with the arts, as well as a one-page summary
  • regional and city reports.

Media kit (documents/reports, images, infographics): access via this Dropbox link

Media queries: 

Questions about the research: research@creativenz.govt.nz

Blog from Creative New Zealand CE Stephen Wainwright: Delving into New Zealanders’ attitudes towards the arts


Note to editors

Attitudes towards the arts

New Zealanders’ attitudes towards the arts were more positive in both the 2020 adult and young persons surveys, right across the board. This growth in positive sentiment continues the trend we’ve seen over time, and shows how people are becoming more aware of the many positive benefits the arts bring to our lives.

The three highest shifts in attitudes for adults were for the following statements:

  • “The arts help define who we are as New Zealanders” (64% agree; ↑10% on 2017)
  • “The arts should receive public funding” (60% agree; ↑7% on 2017)
  • “My local council should give money to support the arts” (54% agree; ↑7% on 2017).

It’s interesting to note that two of the three biggest shifts relate to funding for the arts, indicating higher levels of comfort with this.

For young people, two statements showed significant changes:

  • “Taking part in arts activities helps me feel good about life in general” (73% agree; ↑11% on 2017)
  • “You need to have talent to be able to do arts activities” (49% agree; ↑8% on 2017).

While the latter finding could be interpreted as young people increasingly valuing the skill involved in making art, there is a potential concern that this perception could act as a barrier to participation and to young people simply enjoying the arts and having fun.

Attendance at the arts

Arts attendance fell in 2020 compared to 2017. This is likely a result of reduced opportunities to attend arts events and activities due to COVID-19, particularly in the performing arts where many performances were cancelled or postponed, and venues struggled to operate.

  • Overall, 68% of adult New Zealanders (aged 15+) attended or visited at least one arts event or location in the previous 12 months (↓5% on 2017).
  • Almost one in four adults (24%; ↑2%) attended arts events 11 or more times in the previous 12 months. A further 25% attended between 4 and 10 times (↓4%), and 20% between 1 and 3 times (↓3%). Those not attending the arts rose to 32% (↑5%).
  • Attendance by young people (aged 10–14) also fell in 2020 compared to 2017, with in-person attendance dropping to 73% (↓12%). When online attendance is included in the mix, that figure rises to 87%.

Participation in the arts

Despite a drop in arts attendance, arts participation held steady in 2020. This may be due to some people having had more time for creative pursuits while at home during COVID-19 lockdowns.

  • Overall, more than half of all adult New Zealanders (aged 15+) had participated in the arts in the previous 12 months (52%; no change on 2017).
  • New Zealanders are participating at about the same levels as they did three years ago, despite the challenges of COVID-19. Almost one in five people (19%) participated in the arts 13 or more times in the previous 12 months. A further 33% participated up to 12 times.
  • Young New Zealanders’ participation (aged 10–14) remains almost universal, at 98%. The proportion of young people only participating in the arts at school rose though, to 13% (↑4% on 2017).

About the survey

New Zealanders and the arts: Attitudes, Attendance and Participation in 2020 was an online survey conducted by Colmar Brunton consisting of more than 7,000 respondents (6,263 adults and 754 young people).  

Independent research company Colmar Brunton conducted two surveys for New Zealanders and the Arts — Ko Aotearoa me ōna Toi, one with adults and one with young people. Survey results have been weighted to Stats NZ Tatauranga Aotearoa population counts so that they are nationally representative. The margin of error for the adult survey was +/- 1.2% and the margin of error was +/- 3.6% for the young persons survey.

Change in survey methods

The survey was first conducted in 2005 and has been repeated every three years since then. In 2017, the survey method was changed from landline phone to a mostly online format. In 2020, a fully online format was used, and several changes were made to the questionnaire. For the adult survey, these changes included:

  • updating the language used so that the questionnaire remained fit for purpose, including a wider range of examples from different cultures within each artform
  • adding new questions so that attendance could be split out by online and in person
  • adding questions to measure the impact of COVID-19 on the arts.

Other changes were made for the survey of young people, and these are described in the full Colmar Brunton report.

It should be noted that as the New Zealanders and the Arts — Ko Aotearoa me ōna Toi research is now conducted solely online, people who didn't have access to the internet weren't reached. Because of this, the proportion of people accessing the arts online may be slightly inflated.

Given the online survey method, some of the survey results in this publication can't be compared with those in previously published surveys (2005-2014) that haven’t been re-weighted to take account of methodology changes.

More information is available in the Research Summary document as well as the full reports – all available on Creative New Zealand’s website: www.creativenz.govt.nz/nzersandthearts