December 01, 2011
BOSTON—Seventy percent of voters in Massachusetts’ eleven Gateway Cities consider community arts and culture events and activities either very important or extremely important and eighty percent support government funding for such events. About half (49 percent) feel general government funding for the arts should increase, and another 36 percent feel it should stay the same, according to a new poll by the MassINC Polling Group.
The poll was commissioned by MassINC as part of a newly-funded initiative to create a leadership network around the role of the arts in the economic revitalization of Gateway Cities, a strategy the National Endowment for the Arts calls “creative placemaking.” The survey, given to 600 registered voters among the eleven Gateway Cities, informs that effort by gauging voters’ perceptions of the arts and their impact on quality of life and economic development in these communities. Voter opinion will shape what is politically feasible at the local level, and could either spur leaders to take bold action in the creative placemaking arena or prevent them from doing so. The survey also captured their personal participation in a range of cultural and artistic pursuits, with voters reporting high levels of participation overall.
“It is clear from the report that Gateway City residents participate strongly in cultural activities and believe that arts and culture play a major role in improving their city’s image, its quality of life and its ability to attract additional investment,” said Greg Torres, President of MassINC and Publisher of CommonWealth magazine, who noted that the high levels of support may stem from successful examples of creative placemaking in a number of Gateway Cities such as Lowell, New Bedford and Pittsfield.
“As we have seen throughout the Gateway Cities, and certainly throughout the country, creative assets can spark a renaissance in cities struggling to revitalize their economies,” he said.
According to the survey, eight in ten Gateway City voters support government funding for arts events and activities, and 77 percent support funding for renovating art related buildings such as museums, galleries, and theaters. In each case, these figures are 15 percentage points higher than support among registered voters statewide. In other areas, the survey reported:
- Participation in the arts is widespread among Gateway City residents. Only one in five reported no cultural pursuits in the previous year.
- Gateway City residents associate creative placemaking with educational and economic development benefits. Sixty three percent said arts and culture can improve cities and towns by attracting new businesses; while 75 percent said arts and culture provide important educational opportunities for children.
- Residents believe creative placemaking can improve the quality of life and boost their cities’ beleaguered image. While 62 percent say quality of life in their city is good, very good or excellent, just 42 percent think residents in other communities believe so. Sixty three percent believe holding cultural events in the community is a way to improve their cities’ image.
The survey also provided some notable differences throughout these categories in terms of age and race. Non-white voters are more likely than white voters to say they strongly agree with the benefits of arts and culture events, though they are less likely to participate in most of the activities covered in the survey. Younger people participate in more cultural pursuits, but are less likely to be aware of cultural events taking place in their cities.
About the Gateway Cities: MassINC has worked with 11 key regional Gateway Cities since 2007 to rekindle the social, economic, and civic innovation that older industrial communities need to compete and prosper in the nation’s 21st century economy. Like mid-size cities across the Northeast and Midwest, Massachusetts Gateway Cities have unrealized potential, but they face complex and interrelated challenges that make it difficult to unlock these opportunities.
About MassINC: MassINC is a nonprofit, independent think tank and publisher of CommonWealth magazine that uses non-partisan research, civic journalism and public forums to stimulate debate and shape public policy. Our mission is to promote a public agenda for the middle class and to help all citizens achieve the American dream.
About the MassINC Polling Group: The MassINC Polling Group (MPG) is an independent, non-partisan organization providing public opinion research and analysis to public, private, and social sector clients. MPG is a full service opinion polling operation offering strategic consultation, a wide-ranging suite of analytical products, and high-level communication and outreach planning. For more information, visit massincpolling.com