Defining Interested Non-Attendance and the Barriers to Attendance

Who was surveyed?

The 2012 GSS Arts module questions were asked of GSS respondents who originally entered the survey sample in one of its two prior waves, in 2008 or 2010.

Did they attend?

The 2012 GSS Arts module begins by asking respondents two questions specific to their arts attendance:

  • With the exception of elementary or high school performances, did you go to a live music, theater, or dance performance, during the last 12 months?


  • During the last 12 months, did you go to an art exhibit, such as paintings, sculpture, textiles, graphic design, or photography?

If a respondent answered “yes” to one of these, then he or she received a series of questions asking about the most recent exhibit or performance attended. If he or she answered “yes” to both, then—depending which version of the survey the respondent was randomly assigned to at the beginning—the respondent’s subsequent questions focused either on their most recent exhibit, or their most recent performance.

With whom did they attend?

Each arts attendee—that is, respondents who said “yes” to at least one of the two questions above—was then asked:

Did you attend this {performance, exhibit} alone, with one other person, or with two or more other people?

Respondents who replied that they attended the performance or exhibit with at least one other person were then asked a series of questions about their co-attendees, that is, whether they attended with their spouse or partner, with a child, with a friend, with a relative, or with someone else unrelated to them.

Why did they attend?

Arts attendees were then asked a series of questions aimed at understanding which of several possible motivations influenced their decision to attend this performance or exhibit. For each of the possible motivations listed below, attendees were asked: “Was it a major reason, a minor reason, or not a reason at all?”

  • Low cost
  • Wanting to experience high quality art
  • Wanting to socialize with family or friends
  • Wanting to learn about or celebrate your or your family’s cultural heritage
  • Wanting to support a community organization or (community) event
  • Wanting to gain knowledge or learn something new
  • Wanting to experience a performance or see an exhibit at this location
  • Wanting to see a specific, individual performer

In addition to these questions, attendees were also asked whether the performance or exhibit most recently attended was free, or had an admission fee.

Who was interested, but did not attend?

If the respondent said they did not attend any exhibit or live music, drama, or theater performance in the last 12 months, they were then asked:

  • During the last 12 months, was there a performance or exhibit that you wanted to go to, but did not?

If they said yes, they were then asked whether they had wanted to attend a performance, an exhibit, or both. If they said both, then—like for attendees who attended both—they were randomly asked only about either the most recent exhibit or the most recent performance they had wanted to attend, but ultimately did not attend.

For demographics of interested non-attendees, click here.

What barriers did interested non-attendees experience?

Interested non-attendees were then asked to think about the most recent exhibit or performance they had wanted to attend but did not, and answer whether each of the following were reasons for their decision not to attend:

  • Cost: Cost too much
  • Access: Too difficult to get there
  • Social Reasons: Could not find anyone to go with
  • Time: Could not find the time
  • Program: Programs or events were not of interest
  • Venue: Did not want to go to that location
  • Other: Some other reason (please specify)

Some examples of other reasons respondents specified include work commitments, sickness or disability, and not being able to find childcare.

Finally, if the respondent said that more than one of the factors listed above was a reason for their non-attendance, they were asked a follow-up question: “Of these factors, which one was the most important in your decision not to attend?”