We observe a slight increase in one-month intentions to visit cultural organizations as reopenings and quarantine fatigue may be overpowering concern around increasing coronavirus cases.
Needless to say, there is quite a bit going on right now.
The coronavirus case count continues to climb in the United States. While some states are slowing or postponing reopening, others remain open or are moving forward in their plans to do so. Across the board, intentions to visit cultural organizations remain low when compared to historic values, but one-month intentions to visit have slightly increased this week due to some states reopening and the increased normalization of leaving home. The Fourth of July holiday and the potential flurry of out-of-home plans may have contributed to the slight uptick in planning activities in the next month. This said, intentions to visit cultural organizations in the next week remain significantly depressed and stagnant compared to last week.
In the absence of national health policies, we’re largely observing shifting regional reactions to the virus and how they impact intentions to visit cultural organizations. This regional variance is likely to remain true. In the coming months, there may be ebbs and flows regionally based on the perceptions of local factors.
Today we are providing a one-week update and sharing information collected through July 4, 2020. 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 June 28-July 4, the data and analysis summarized below represent an additional sample of 1,713 adults.
A brief reminder of what “intent to visit” means, and why it matters.
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?
Updated data on intent to visit cultural entities as of July 6th, 2020
While intentions to visit within three months historically peak in May due to their encompassing the summertime months, one-month intentions tend to peak in June.
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 17 weeks now. The chart below includes the data at two-week intervals, as well as last week’s values for comparison. You can go back to any past week and revisit the data.
Near-term intentions to visit (within one week and within one month) are notably depressed compared to last year… though one-month intentions did see a slight uptick.
One-week intentions to visit cultural organizations remain depressed. Intentions to visit within one week are low in most regions because a majority of entities remain closed across the nation. Intentions to visit within one week are low in states that have reopened due to spikes in COVID-19 cases and uncertainty surrounding the virus. We may not see one-week intentions recover until more states have reopened alongside our having a better handle on the virus and what safely reopening means.
One-month intentions lag behind 2019 values but saw a slight uptick this week. There is a notable delta between the value of 16 that we see in one-month intentions to visit right now and the historical value of 18 that we historically see in June. On the whole, these depressed numbers may demonstrate some unease regarding COVID-19 prevalence, as well as uncertainty as to when cultural entities will reopen in some states. But the bump from 15 to 16 this week is meaningful, observed as some states move forward in reopening and also perhaps as people grow more accustomed to places reopening.
Three-month intentions to visit have recovered to national levels. Last week, we observed a decrease in three-month intentions to visit from 26 to 25 as the coronavirus increase took hold of the US, and that 26 may be lost for now. Still, the 25 value matches historic levels.
Updated variance by region
In the charts below, we’ve shared data for many of the most populated geographic areas in the United States. 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 have been tracking North Carolina independently because the state maintained slightly different intentions to visit than its neighbors in Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina when the outbreak first took place. Today, North Carolina is tracking more closely with some of its other neighbors. This week, we’ve added representative data from Kentucky, Tennessee, and West Virginia to the map with North Carolina. We will continue to share data on this state grouping moving forward.
Again, it’s helpful to start with a look at intentions to visit by region at the end of June 2019 for comparative context.
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, July 4th, 2020:
Intentions to visit within one month have not recovered to their value from last year for any region – open or closed. The differences compared to last year are especially notable in regions where the number of coronavirus cases is increasing.
Let’s break this down, shall we?
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 intention to visit your own organization that matters 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 its closure, and your own audiences’ sensitivities to risk. Here’s a dive into what you should consider.
The chart below compares intentions to visit cultural organizations as of June 30, 2019, and this last Saturday, July 4, 2020. 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 – especially in states most impacted by increased coronavirus cases. People in the US generally do not intend to visit cultural organizations this week.
As you can see, one-week intentions remain significantly depressed compared to this time last year. This makes sense. A majority of cultural organizations in the US remain closed, and many states with reopened cultural organizations are experiencing a spike in the virus. For those states that are reopened, it stands to reason that some potential visitors may be especially careful as their home or neighboring states make coronavirus headlines.
You’ll note that one-week intentions to visit cultural organizations in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, and Texas have decreased in the last two weeks, as well as in the region consisting of Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico. Despite having a comparatively large number of cultural enterprises open compared to other regions, many of these states have also witnessed an increase in coronavirus cases. On a national level, this may overpower some of the visitation anticipation that we’re seeing in the Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York region. (It’s perhaps worth noting that these numbers are still far from historic levels, even with that “anticipation bump.”)
As coronavirus cases increased in California last week and the Governor announced closures in 19 counties, intentions to visit within the state decreased from last week’s bump. It is likely these conditions impacted the number for the entire aggregated region of California, Washington, and Oregon.
Intentions to visit in one month by region
This week, the national one-month intent to visit metric increased from 15 to 16, which is worthy of note in this kind of research. Though much closer to historic values than one-week values, one-month intentions to visit still have not recovered for any region, despite the increase this week.
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 (historically 16), and they did not recover for the end of June (historically 18). In other words, intentions to visit cultural organizations within one month remain depressed across the United States.
We’ve been tracking one-month and three-month changes by region for fourteen weeks and this chart was also getting rather cluttered. To that end, we’re showing the data for last week, and then every other prior week.
(It’s not a typo: There are fewer bars for the Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, and Kansas region because we added them to the charts later than the others.)
Why the slight uptick this week from a national standpoint?
Despite depressed one-week intentions to visit, this metric may indicate hopefulness as people get more accustomed to leaving their homes during the pandemic. It may be becoming more normal to see sites reopen, and people may be beginning to make more plans again. Not to mention, quarantine fatigue may play a role in this – especially as people were gearing up for the Fourth of July and trying out or solidifying safety protocols and social distancing behaviors.
Intentions to visit in three months by region
Now let’s look at three-month intentions to visit. People generally indicate intentions to resume their more normal visitation patterns within three months – with the caveat that cultural entities evolve operations to make them feel safe.
The exception is currently the state of Texas. (To a lesser degree, the region of Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Ohio is slightly depressed.) This may suggest there are some people in Texas who may be apprehensive about the conditions surrounding the virus such that it is impacting their longer-term intentions to attend cultural organizations. Consider that messaging surrounding the coronavirus, masks, and reopening may be particularly confusing and contradictory in Texas – a state where local leaders, the lieutenant governor, and governor are regularly promulgating discordant public health messages to the same constituencies.
Nationally, however, these numbers are still tracking nicely alongside historic levels. You can see the three-month intention to visit trendlines below for each region.
This is good news, and we hope it keeps up.
On the whole, there is a general correlation between regional increased transmission of the virus and decreased intentions to visit. This may be the emerging norm in light of the lack of national health measures or policies surrounding the spread of the coronavirus. State and regional nuance my become increasingly important for framing cultural organizations’ expectations.
We’ll be here and we’ll keep watching.
Be safe in the meantime, and we’ll see you on Wednesday with more data and analysis.
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.