Longer-term intentions to visit cultural organizations remain stable. Nearer-term intentions to visit reflect national happenings related to the coronavirus and demonstrations for racial justice.
At various points in the last thirteen weeks since we’ve been tracking this metric, we’ve been able to say, “Intentions continue to increase” or “This week things are stable.” This week, intentions may represent a state consistent with the status of the nation: There is a lot happening. To that end, we present this week’s data with the reminder that we’re looking at a moment in time. It is a moment that exists in the midst of a global pandemic, massive demonstrations across the nation, and reopenings during what would normally be a season with heightened attendance for most organizations – all at the same time.
Last week, we saw a national dip in near-term (one-week and one-month) intentions to visit cultural organizations in the early days of the civil unrest related to demonstrations against police brutality. This week, this important movement continued, and, in addition, some states also observed an increase in COVID-19 cases. The research reflects that we’re in the middle of several things right now, and a clear trend indicating the speed of near-term recovery is not yet apparent. (But we’re watching!)
Our intention is to provide a foundational basis for organizations to thoughtfully respond to current conditions in as fully informed a manner as possible. Racism and a global pandemic are both issues to grapple with right now, and they are understandably impacting intentions to visit. This clinical analysis that encompasses the US public’s response to what is irrefutably an American tragedy in no way intends to imply that protests shouldn’t happen or are remotely unjustified. Nor does any data or analysis contained herein intend to suggest what should or should not occur in the wake of the unconscionable.
Today we are providing a one-week update and sharing information collected through June 6th. The research quantifies the US adult public’s intentions to visit 84 unique cultural organizations within the United States – from art museums and aquariums to theaters to symphonies. For the week ranging from May 31–June 6, the data and analysis summarized below represent an additional sample of 1,734 adults.
A brief reminder of what “intent to visit” means, and why it matters right now.
Unlike mere interest in visiting an organization, research shows that intent to visit aligns closely with actual plans and visitation behaviors. Visitors’ stated intentions to visit an organization within a defined duration have historically proven a dependable indicator of actual visitation behaviors, and are a generally reliable gauge of likely attendance.
One’s intent to visit is among the best available metrics for reliably predicting behaviors. It helps us understand people’s plans for future visitation at any given time, and further aligns these intentions to a specific chronology. This metric not only quantifies the strength of intentions to visit an organization but also identifies the duration within which one intends to manifest this intention.
Exhibit and performance-based entities across the nation are closed. Like other enterprises at the moment, their financial strife is making headlines. This interruption of our regular operations begs multiple questions:
When we reopen, will people come back?
When do people think that they’ll come back?
How is the current environment – at this moment – impacting future plans?
And, critically, how is this changing over time?
Updated data on intent to visit cultural entities as of June 6th
This week, we’re adding June to the 2019 calendar. While intentions to visit within three months historically first peak in May due to their encompassing the summertime months, one-month intentions tend to peak in June. We are currently closer to May 31st than June 31st, so keep that in mind when you look at the 2019 charts.
A good way to think of these scalar values is as a measure of the relative certainty of an intended behavior being actualized. Thus, a value of “1” would indicate no intentions whatsoever to visit an organization, whereas a reported value of “100” would suggest that the respondent was essentially waiting in line for the doors to open.
Please note that the data for 2019 is shown for the end of each month in the 2019 chart. This is not the case for the 2020 chart, which has been cut weekly since the announcement of the national emergency on March 13th. This is what things look like during a non-pandemic year:
Now let’s take a look at 2020. The chart was getting a bit crowded and difficult to read, as we’ve been tracking this metric for 13 weeks now. We’ve included this week’s metrics, last week for comparison (start of the uprising), the week before that (pre-uprising), and then removed every-other-week. Thus, the timeframes in the chart below are not uniform, so take note of the dates! The trendlines are still clearly visible, and we wanted to be a bit kinder to your eyeballs.
One-week intentions to visit cultural organizations remain depressed this week. This is likely due to civil unrest related to protest actions, including uncertainty about the prevailing current conditions impacting leisure enterprise. Remember that this week saw curfews, the National Guard on the streets, road closures and drawn bridges, looting alongside peaceful protesters, and violence carried out by police officers. With that in mind, it stands to reason that some might not plan to venture into places where cultural organizations may be for leisure purposes alone. Alongside this, many cultural entities remain, so intentions to visit these institutions would understandably be low anyway. (Though the metric is lower than it was before the national unrest, curfews, etc.)
One-month intentions recovered to pre-civil unrest levels (for now), but lag behind 2019 values. In these metrics, an increase or decrease of even one value is significant. Thus, this slight recovery is notable. It is subject to change – for better or worse – in the coming weeks and we’ll be watching and sharing it. As COVID-19 cases rise alongside reopenings in some states and we watch happenings related to violence in the US, it’s unwise to predict how and if this will move at this point. We’ll have to see.
Three-month and six-month intentions remain stable. We continue to interpret this to be an encouraging forecast. Despite uncertainties, people intend to return to cultural experiences they enjoy. People intend to visit cultural organizations at more usual levels again within the next few months. (However, it’s important to keep in mind that demand for certain cultural experiences is being redistributed and ensuring a safe experience may be prerequisite for securing a visit.)
Updated variance by region
In the charts below, we’ve shared data for many of the most populated geographic areas in the United States. Since commencing research concerning the impacts of COVID-19, our data collection processes have endeavored to be representative of the United States. Thus, as a function of representative data collection, we currently have collected more samples from more populated states and regions.
In many cases, we’ve also grouped states together by both their geographic proximity and attitudinal similarity. For example, surveyed respondents in California, Oregon, and Washington indicate similar intentions to visit cultural entities; thus, they have been collectively aggregated and defined as a unique cohort. Where attitudinal variances have been observed within a region, this region has been accordingly segmented. We gathered enough data to start including the combined region of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas last week. We’ll start by looking at one-month and three-month intentions, before diving into one-week intentions.
Again, it’s helpful to start with a look at intentions to visit by region at the end of May 2019 for comparative context. Because we’re into June, we’ve included data for the end of June 2019 as well.
As you can see, some regions indicate different levels of intentions to visit even during a non-pandemic timeframe. This makes sense. Not every region has equal access and/or interest in cultural organizations. We frequently observe that regions with greater densities – both in terms of population and cultural enterprise – have higher near-term intentions to visit a cultural organization.
Here’s where things stood this last Saturday, June 6th, 2020:
Intentions to visit within one month have not fully recovered to their value from last year for the end of May or the end of June.
We’ve been tracking one-month and three-month changes by region for ten weeks and this chart was also getting rather cluttered. To that end, we’re showing this week, last week, the week before, and then every-other-week before that. This still provides a sense of the trend, though do note that the data increments shown are not even! You can see all of the values up until this week here.
Note that we started tracking these metrics for the combined region of Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas on May 23rd.
This looks okay – and it’s not bad – but remember, one-month intentions to visit usually increase by the end of May and June. These intentions did not nationally recover for the end of May (value of 16), and they’ve got some growing to do to recover to last year’s national values for the end of June (value of 18).
There’s good news in three-month intentions to visit! People indicate intentions to resume their more normal visitation patterns within three months – with the caveat that we are able to evolve operations to make them feel safe. These numbers are tracking nicely alongside historic levels!
One-week intentions to visit by region
While regional one-week intentions to visit cultural organizations can provide signals to inform expectations, it’s the one-week intentions to visit your own organization that matter most. From a coronavirus-related perspective, this includes considerations unique to your organization type, local perceptions and tolerances related to COVID-19, your organization’s messaging during closure, and your own audiences’ sensitivities to risk. Here’s a dive into what you should consider.
Again, however, the regional data can provide directional insight. The chart below compares intentions to visit cultural organizations as of May 31, 2019, and this last Saturday, June 6. You’ll note that one-week intentions to visit have not recovered – even in the states that have started to reopen their cultural institutions. On the whole and even for individual regions, these numbers are low. People in the US generally do not intend to visit cultural organizations this week.
Now let’s look at changes in intentions to visit within one week, and compare this week to the last two. As you can see, one-week intentions took a dip last week and remain depressed this week.
When we explored possibilities related to dips in specific regions when we first observed the decrease last week. At the risk of scraping the barrel, it’s worth noting that one-week intentions did not further decrease compared to last week. That said, the numbers are still low.
As always, these metrics are subject to change as conditions evolve. Intentions to return to out-of-home leisure activities within the next few months are currently still high.
We’ll continue to keep you posted, and will have more updated data for you on Wednesday.
Here are the COVID-19 data insights for cultural entities that we’ve published to date. Don’t want to miss an update? Subscribe here to get the most recent data and analysis in your inbox.