More Singaporeans and PRs See Personal Benefits in the Arts; 2011 National Population Survey on the Arts Reveals


  • Close to 70% of respondents showed a strong appreciation of the value of the arts
  • The arts in Singapore now reaches a broader audience more evenly distributed across demographic groups


The National Arts Council (NAC) today published the seventh edition of the National Population Survey on the Arts. This is the first time the report is published in full and is part of the Council’s ongoing efforts to provide arts practitioners, partners and industry stakeholders with useful resources to help plan and implement their programmes and activities.


The 2011 National Population Survey on the Arts interviewed a total of 2,038 Singaporeans and Permanent Residents (PRs) between October and December 2011. A broad definition of arts and cultural activities was adopted as NAC recognises the diversity of lifestyles, cultures and communities that now make up the Singapore population. Arts and cultural activities included in this survey range from classical and traditional arts performances, and fine art exhibitions,  to more mainstream and urban genres, which include street dance performances, as well as pop, independent and rock music concerts. This broad approach allows for a comprehensive snapshot of the current level of interest, attitudes and perceptions towards arts and cultural activities, as well as audience habits and their influencing factors.


The survey showed there has been a steady increase in audience numbers: 1 in 2 Singaporeans and PRs attended at least one arts-related activity in the last 12 months, compared to 1 in 3 in 2002. Attendance has also increased across all art forms, with theatre and music being the two top choices among respondents. Over the last decade, NAC also noted that arts attendance has also become more evenly distributed across the demographic and income groups.


“The survey provides a snapshot of the behavioural patterns of our population in terms of their involvement in, and perception of the arts. We hope such information and insights will help our artists and partners plan their work more effectively and efficiently,” says Mr Benson Puah, Chief Executive Officer, NAC. 


He adds, “NAC also uses the research findings to guide our work. For example, we identified groups that may have been overlooked or under-represented in the past, and are seeing how we can work with our artists to fill the gaps. In recent months, targeted programmes such as Silver Arts and Arts@Work have brought quality arts experiences to specific demographic groups, namely the silver generation and PMEBs respectively.”


Key findings of the 2011 National Population Survey on the Arts:

1)    48% of respondents in 2011 attended at least 1 arts and cultural activity or event in the last 12 months, with attendance being more evenly distributed across all demographic and income groups

  • While youth and working adults between the ages of 15 and 39 form the most prominent group of arts audiences, the overall distribution of audiences across the different income and education levels reflects more closely the profile of Singapore’s population today.  This suggests that the arts is becoming more accessible to a greater diversity of Singaporeans, regardless of age, education or income.
  • Theatre was most popular among respondents, watched by 36% of all arts audiences.
  • Among each art form, the most popular genres, not surprisingly, were those seen as having higher entertainment value, such as variety shows, musicals, pop/rock/indie music, and street dance. It is also notable that there were increases in other activities such as the watching of plays and traditional theatre, as well as attendance at art fairs and exhibitions.


2)    A more active participation in the arts, whether as a hobby, taking up an arts-related class, participating in an arts group or discussion, remained at 19%, identical to 2009

  • Music remains the most popular art form that respondents had an active participation in.
  • While youth participation in the arts is higher compared to other segments, it has dropped significantly from 40% in 2009 to 28% in 2011.


3)    A majority of respondents identified with the personal and social benefits of the arts while more Singaporeans were receptive to engaging in the arts and culture in the future

  • Among those who have attended at least 1 arts and cultural activity or participated in the arts, almost all say they would continue or increase their level of involvement.
  • Among those who did not cite any form of involvement in the arts, 52% were neutral towards or interested in the arts.  This is in line with the overall fall from 35% in 2009 to 27% in 2011 of Singaporeans who said they were not interested in the arts.
  • Close to 70% of respondents believed that the arts gives them a better understanding of people of different backgrounds and cultures; helps them to express their thoughts, feelings and ideas; inspires and helps them to be more creative in their studies and/or work; and improves the quality of life for everyone. 


The 2011 National Population Survey on the Arts, for the first time, also examined the interest, habits and attitudes towards the arts and culture of four profile segments – youth, PMEBs, married with children, and seniors and retirees.


4)    The involvement of youth in the arts far exceeds that of the average respondent, where 61% of youth attended at least 1 arts and cultural activity, and 28% have a more active participation.

  • Compared to the average participant, youth show a greater interest in the performing arts. Almost 60% and 42% of youth cite music and dance, respectively, as the art forms in which they more actively participate.
  • Compared to the average respondent, youth are more likely to cite the lack of knowledge on what interests them as a barrier for involvement, and the broadening of their minds as a motivation for involvement.


5)    61% of PMEBs surveyed have attended at least 1 arts and cultural activity, but only 19% have a more active participation.

  • While theatre is also the most popular artform among PMEB consumers, compared to the average respondent , PMEBs are more likely to attend music performances and visit visual arts exhibitions.
  • Compared to the average arts audiences, PMEBs are more likely to cite competing family commitments as a barrier to attending arts events and activities, and spending time with family as a motivation for attendance. They are also more likely to experience the arts via arts venues and museums, and in the company of family members.


6)    Arts involvement among those Married with Children was lower than the average respondent by 5% for arts attendance and 2% for participation.

  • Compared to the average arts audience, those Married with Children are more likely to attend arts activities with family members or their spouse, and to attend an activity at a community club or centre.
  • They are more likely to cite a lack of relevance to their lives as a barrier to arts attendance, and like the average arts audience, see the arts as a form of entertainment.


7)    Retirees and seniors have the lowest level of involvement in the arts.

  • Traditional theatre, dance and music found greatest support among this profile segment.
  • Compared to the average arts audience, retirees and seniors are 5 times more likely to attend arts activities on their own. They are least likely to experience the arts through museums and libraries, and more likely to experience the arts in the community club or centre, places of worship and through voluntary welfare organisations.
  • They are more likely to cite a lack of familiarity with the artist/arts as a barrier to arts involvement, with a majority of 84% seeing the arts as a form of entertainment.


The full report can be downloaded at here.