General, Funding

General Population Survey shows majority support increased funding for the arts in NI

21st September, 2023

A survey focusing on the general public’s attitude towards the arts in Northern Ireland, as well as participation and attendance levels, shows widespread support for continued and increased investment.

The majority of respondents to the independent survey commissioned by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland also said they would back a political candidate that supported increased spending.

Infographic illustrating public investment in the arts

The Arts Council’s General Population Survey (GPS) is based on a representative sample of 1,015 adults between May and June 2023 and provides a snapshot of the characteristics and behaviours of those attending and participating in the arts in Northern Ireland. It also asks questions about the perceptions people have of the value of the arts in society and to the economy.

The latest data captured reveals a number of significant findings since the research was last conducted in 2019-20. These include:

  • 79% of people agreed it is right that there should be public investment in arts and culture organisations.
  • 70% said they believed it is right that there should be public investment in individual artists.
  • 58% would vote for a political candidate who advocated increased spending on arts and culture (9% would vote against, and 33% were undecided).
  • 87% said the arts play a significant role/ play a role in educational attainment.
  • 86% agreed that the arts create jobs in Northern Ireland.
  • 86% strongly agreed that the arts bring tourists to Northern Ireland.

The report also noted a number of changes in attendance and participation in the arts:

  • 74% of respondents had attended an arts activity or event in the past 12 months. This is higher than the last survey in 2019-20, when the attendance rate was 68%.
  • Younger people are most likely to attend arts events. 87% of those aged 18-34 went to at least one arts event in the last year. 75% of people aged 34-39 and 61% aged over 60 attended an arts event.
  • 52% participated in an arts activity at least once in the past 12 months.

Karly Greene, Director of Strategic Development, at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: 

“This latest General Population Survey shows strong support for the arts in Northern Ireland. It clearly demonstrates the value which the public places on continued and increased investment in the arts infrastructure, for the benefit of our economy, tourism, education and personal health and wellbeing.
“Post-pandemic, the number of people attending an arts event in the past year has grown significantly but there is still much work to be done in increasing the number of people taking part in arts activities.
“The independent survey’s findings will be used to inform the work of the Arts Council, as we plan to grow audiences, increase equality of access and develop the role that the arts play in enriching lives, while enhancing the profile of Northern Ireland as a great place to live, work and invest in.”

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland commissioned Social Market Research (SMR) to undertake a General Population Survey (GPS). The survey is based on a representative sample of 1,015 adults using an online panel methodology. The survey was conducted in accordance with the ISO20252:2019 Standard, and fieldwork was carried between 17 May and 7 June 2023.

To read the full report visit General Population Survey 2022-23 | Arts Council NI (