Attitudes continue to shift toward relaxing public health policies at museums and performing arts organizations…amongst people who do not have children in their households.
It’s happening, folks! More and more people are fully vaccinated from the Coronavirus in the United States. Safety protocols are continuing to be relaxed throughout the nation, albeit on different timelines.
As of two weeks ago on May 21, we still observed that most potential visitors preferred mask requirements in order to feel most comfortable attending museums and performing arts organizations (despite the CDC’s lifting of mask requirements for vaccinated individuals on May 13). So, how much have things changed in the last two weeks? How quickly? Where do things stand now?
These are good questions, and we’re here with a data update.
Cultural entities may be wondering what specific public health protocols they should enforce, and for how long. To help shed light on these answers, we’re adding two new metrics to better understand the current expectations and tolerance for different safety protocols as of June 4, 2021.
1) Perceptions surrounding safety protocols continue to evolve (though more slowly in the last two weeks)
Let’s start with an update to build upon where things stood two weeks ago: How do the people who are currently planning their visits to cultural organizations feel about safety protocols now that more people are being vaccinated and regulations are changing?
The chart below adds data from June 4 to the mix and includes an additional 1,573 US adults who intend to visit a cultural organization in the next 90 days. More than mere interest, these respondents are actively planning their visit to one specific cultural organization (or more). In other words, here are the attitudes of people who have already decided that they will visit.
The jump from 42.4% to 50.6% of people believing that “It’s time to go back to normal” in only three weeks between April 30th and May 21st was a notable shift! However, there hasn’t been as drastic of a change in sentiment in the last two weeks. This is telling. If we thought that the pace with which people would feel more and more comfortable would occur in roughly consistent intervals as time went on, well, we’re not observing that happening at the moment. Thus far, the biggest changes in perception happened immediately after the CDC changed its guidelines and those who were ready for the chance seemed to have rapidly shifted course.
It’s also worth noting that the change in “open up without restrictions” sentiment might track in some accordance with vaccination rates…the pace of which has also slowed across the US. It may yet be some time until there’s more significant movement again. Or not. We’ll have to keep watching.
We remain in the middle of a sentiment divide for now. And we may yet be here for a while. This puts cultural organizations in a tough spot. Here’s more updated information to help…
2) Masks remain particularly important for people with children in the household
The chart above contemplates people who are actively planning to visit an organization in the next 90 days. It necessarily illustrates the sentiments of people who feel safe enough to have already made the decision to attend. What do we know about other likely visitors – including those who may be on the fence about visiting?
As of June 4th, approximately 62% of high-propensity visitors to cultural entities in the United States believe that organizations should require all visitors to wear a mask. On May 21st, it was 67% of likely visitors. Mandatory mask requirements are still important for cultural organizations on the whole right now. While we do see a bit of regional variance in the strength of this sentiment, likely visitors still tend to be sensitive to this safety protocol indoors in the United States.
The chart below shows the belief that a cultural organization should require masks among nearly 5,500 likely visitors to cultural organizations in the US. It is sorted to denote respondents who report having a child under age 13 in the household, and also contemplates those who do not.
On the whole, people who have children under 13 in the household still believe that cultural entities should require masks – and this has not significantly budged in the last two weeks. In fact, it’s barely budged at all since before the CDC changed its mask guidelines.
Children under 12 are not yet eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccination in the US. It stands to reason that adult visitors – though potentially vaccinated themselves – may be looking to keep their families safe. Interestingly, adults with children in the household have stronger mask preferences right now regardless of if their children are visiting the organization with them or not.
While it can be enticing to jump back into pre-pandemic “normal,” remember that there are parents and grandparents with loved ones who may still be at risk. They are likely attending – or not attending, depending on your mask requirements – accordingly.
In the end, organizations who promise a safe space for families as part of their brand may want to be particularly mindful of this sensitivity as they evolve their onsite policies. Again, things are changing – but until vaccinations are broadly available for everyone regardless of age, it is reasonable to expect that families will continue to rely on effective policies to help provide a safe and healthy environment for their younger children.
3) People believe some protocols are more effective than others, and there are changes in how willing people are to adhere to some safety protocols.
What cultural organization leader isn’t itching to fully open things up, remove protocols, and (safely) get back to normal? But just because the CDC gives you the green light doesn’t mean that everyone is all in.
Remember: You don’t get to decide how guests feel about their own safety, and neither does the CDC. Potential guests decide this for themselves. If organizations remove safety protocols too soon, they risk attendance as people may simply decide to pursue a perceptually safer activity instead. On the other hand, if they hold on to protocols that guests feel are irrelevant for too long, they risk annoying attendees. To that end, we’d like to share two additional metrics that we’re monitoring to help balance when entities may most optimally consider removing specific protocols.
The chart below contemplates 2,306 US adults who intend to visit an organization in the next 90 days, and quantifies how effective they believe various protocols to be in terms of supporting a safe onsite experience. This chart is populated by a process called lexical analysis which allows us to broadly categorize responses from people using their own words. The technologies that underpin this process help to minimize the risks of unintentional biases that occur when facilitators translate a respondent’s statements. We gathered the respondents’ open-ended answers to a series of questions probing the measures and protocols being deployed with the goal of enhancing their onsite safety. That’s also why some of these are rather specific – these are the summarized voices of the people.
The findings are shown in scalar variables and items with measurements over 6 are particularly worthy of note in this research. Those are the items that have the strongest strength of conviction, and that leaders may want to think twice about slashing.
While the findings are clear that masks are still important to people who have interest in visiting, we see that there’s been movement in other safety measures! Still taking temperatures to enter the building? On the whole, potential visitors aren’t convinced that this protocol is particularly effective anymore.
On their own, these findings are interesting. They may be especially valuable when considered alongside a potential visitor’s willingness to abide by these protocols. The chart below contemplates the same people who intend to visit an organization in the next 90 days, and, more specifically, their willingness to take part in different safety protocols. Thus, the research in these two charts is representative of people planning to visit, but not all potential visitors. We know that many people with interest in museums and performing arts are still choosing not to attend certain entities for safety-related reasons.
We see greater willingness to follow health requirements than we do belief in the efficacy of certain protocols. As a general guideline, when both the belief that a protocol is effective and willingness to follow it are under a value of 6, it’s time to consider taking that protocol off the table. Waiting much longer risks irritating visitors and appearing performative rather than visitor-focused.
That’s good news for the zoo leaders and botanic gardens leaders! Market research puts the stamp of approval on relaxing masks in outdoor spaces from a public perception standpoint. Allowing eating and drinking in buildings (while likely allowing for adequate space and social distancing) also gets the stamp of approval amongst people currently planning to visit cultural entities.
Perhaps you’ve noticed a particular item near the bottom of both lists, but that has been a bit of a logistical requirement given capacity restraints: Going online to make an advance ticket purchase.
People do not like this, folks. On the whole, they do not like it one bit.
We’re seeing online ticketing issues contribute to “the hassle” of visiting during the pandemic and driving some folks on the fence to simply stay home. Expectations surrounding smooth transactions have increased during the pandemic as well. This may especially irritate people because during pandemic, we observed that people wanted to make quick plans and keep their options open, and advanced ticketing often requires at least some advanced planning. Indeed, online ticket purchases may be necessary for limiting capacity, but the new protocol isn’t exactly cultivating online ticket purchasing superfans.
While we haven’t seen a massive change in perceptions surrounding masks in the last two weeks, we have seen notable changes in perceptions and attitudes surrounding safety protocols overall. Things are still moving!
We’ll publish updated findings in two weeks on June 23rd.
In the meantime, savor a (vaccinated) hug with your loved ones, enjoy the weather wherever you are, and help make positive memories for an onsite visitor to your organization.
We’re still in safety protocol limbo, but things are moving in a good direction.
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