Not necessarily (as a sweeping statement for US cultural organizations at this moment), but things may be moving swiftly in that direction. Here’s the data.
Proof of vaccination requirements are becoming increasingly common around the world. They are required to enter certain countries, attend museums and hotels in Europe, go into state facilities in Maui, attend a Buffalo Bills NFL game, enter some hospitals, and we’re even seeing them mandated to eat indoors in places like New York City and several cities in California, for instance. In sum, we’re hearing and seeing a lot recently about proof of vaccination requirements.
But should US museums and performing arts organizations require them yet, according to the public?
Well, it’s close. And it may be wise for cultural entities to consider vaccination requirements emerging as a preference among their audiences in the near future.
Here’s a data update on where things stand in terms of safety protocols among likely visitors to cultural organizations in the United States.
What makes potential visitors feel safe attending?
If you’re a regular reader, then you are familiar with our tracking what people say will make them feel safe visiting cultural entities. We’ve been tracking this data since the pandemic started. These particular findings collected through September 9 include 1,884 potential visitors to cultural organizations in the United States.
The findings are shown for exhibit-based organizations (museums, zoos, aquariums, botanic gardens, historic sites, etc.) as well as performance-based organizations (symphonies, theaters, ballets, etc.)
As many know, IMPACTS Experience conducts advanced surveys that are not composed of a simple “pick the best answer” question. Instead, we asked people, “What would make you feel safe and comfortable visiting a(n) [insert organization type] again?” Then, we collected people’s answers to this question using a process called lexical analysis that allows us to broadly categorize responses from people using their own words. The technologies that enable this process help to minimize the risks of unintentional biases that occur when facilitators translate or summarize a respondent’s statements. Finally, these categorized responses are used to populate the response range of a multiple-choice question. In other words, we did not internally brainstorm these options and present them in a survey based on our best guess of what people would say. The options came directly from survey respondents.
We’ve seen several changes over time. For instance, when the pandemic first started and the CDC was recommending that people not wear masks, “mandatory face coverings” didn’t make the list. Then masks rose to the top and have stayed there. But there’s a new item that has recently emerged in the lexical analysis: “Requiring proof of vaccination.”
You may notice that the “availability of coronavirus vaccine” has declined, and this makes sense. The vaccine is and has been available for a while now, so it’s no longer a new condition. And, as we’ve seen, the availability of the vaccine does not mean that everyone will get it.
But “requiring proof of vaccination” is the new factor to watch here. Remember that just because people say that it will make them feel safer doesn’t necessarily mean that they won’t visit if it’s not enforced – or even that they think it should be enforced yet. That said, the fact that 56% of visitors to performance-based organizations report that proof of vaccination requirements will make them feel safer is particularly notable. This safety preference may impact performance-based organizations first if these data offer any prescient insights.
Nearly 48% of likely visitors believe that US cultural entities should require all visitors to show proof of vaccination.
While the above chart demonstrates which safety requirements people say will make them feel most comfortable, the chart below quantifies the belief among 1,749 likely US visitors that cultural organizations should require all visitors to show proof of vaccination.
Unsurprisingly – given that children are not yet able to be vaccinated for COVID-19 – adults with children in the household are notably stronger in their convictions on requiring proof of vaccination.
Remember that this research contemplates potential visitors, not just recent visitors. “That’s not what we’re observing in our onsite surveys” is a silly response to this information if you don’t require proof of vaccination onsite. The people who don’t feel safe visiting aren’t there to fill out an onsite survey. They are likely staying home.
Does this mean that cultural organizations may lose visitors at some point if they wait too long to require proof of vaccination (if that’s where the trend goes)? It’s possible.
So, should cultural entities require proof of vaccination yet? Like many matters of preference and choice, there is no clear, obvious finding yet. It is still a nuanced topic. The best practices for any individual organization may depend on numerous local factors and conditions such as political will, public health policies, and other precedents at retail locations and restaurants, to name a few.
People who attend cultural entities still desire mandatory mask requirements for all visitors.
As of September, nearly 61% of high-propensity visitors to museums and performing arts organizations in the US believe these entities should mandate masks when indoors for all visitors.
As we’ve been reminding folks upon watching the data outcomes over time, people with kids under 13 in the household, as a group, were never cool with discarding masks. Kids are getting the virus and some predictions are grim. This may be one of the reasons why intentions to visit cultural organizations among people with children were lower during the time in which masks were no longer required.
The chart below cumulatively shows the belief that a cultural organization should require masks among nearly 9,300 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 those who do not.
Likely visitors to cultural organizations still want indoor mask requirements, on the whole. This remains true throughout the United States. In fact, the sentiment among potential visitors both with and without children in the household who desire mask requirements did not change significantly in the last month.
We are still hearing some surprisingly weird things from executive leaders about mask requirements, though. And this makes some sense from a psychology standpoint, as some government-supported institutions in certain states are not able to require masks even if they want to. Most typically, we hear confirmation bias statements justifying and reconciling powerlessness over mask mandates, like “it’s a good thing we don’t require them because someone thanked us for being mask-free!” This is also an example of an availability heuristic when we mistake anecdotal evidence as representative data. People who don’t want masks may feel strongly about it and speak up, but those who do want mask mandates – a majority of US likely visitors to cultural entities – probably don’t think that they need to thank you for keeping them safe. Just because a group is loud doesn’t mean they are representative.
(This point is relevant far beyond the topic of mask mandate preferences.)
Is it time to require proof of vaccination? For the whole of the United States for cultural organizations, the data suggests that the answer is “not yet…but maybe soon.”
For now, it is a good idea to consider this shifting sentiment and start to consider what it will mean for your cultural organization should it need to make this choice. And of course, we’ll keep you posted as things progress.
IMPACTS Experience provides data for the world’s leading organizations through workshops, keynote presentations, webinars, and data services such as pricing recommendations, market potential analyses, concept testing, and Awareness, Attitude, and Usage studies. Learn more.
We publish new national data and analysis every other Wednesday. Don’t want to miss an update? Subscribe here to get the most recent data and analysis in your inbox.