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Extensive Study: Art is Not a Pastime of the Elite
Balettitanssijoita, kuva: Jani Kautto
Differences correlating with political affiliations don’t define the culture interests of Finnish people. When it comes to dance performances, for example, as many Finns Party voters attend as Left Alliance voters. Photo: Jani Kautto
A survey conducted by the Finnish Cultural Foundation indicates that Finns agree strongly with the arts being funded by tax revenue and that the significance of cultural institutions has grown.

At the heart of the survey by the Cultural Foundation, conducted now for a second time, is the question of how often Finns encounter diverse forms of culture. The responses show that culture interests all kinds Finns, regardless of age, place of residence or income level. Sociodemographic factors were only visible in the results as mild gradations, and compared to the survey conducted in 2013, all these differences had decreased. Active consumers of culture can be found in all parts of Finland and in all social classes.

Differences correlating with political affiliations had also diminished. The proportion of culturally active persons among voters of the Finns Party was still smaller than that of the Green Party, but one can no longer speak of a dramatic divergence. When it comes to dance performances, for example, as many Finns Party voters attend as Left Alliance voters.

“The information provided by the survey is valuable to all those considering the functions and funding of art from the perspective of the society as a whole,” says the Finnish Cultural Foundation’s Secretary General, Antti Arjava.

Books, films and museums stand out as favourites

The most popular cultural genres proved to be books, films and museums. More than four fifths of respondents read or listened to at least one book per year, with nearly one half doing so once a month or more. Libraries were visited by 70% of respondents at least once a year.

Cinema and museum visits were also popular forms of culture. Significantly fewer respondents, around 15%, visited an operatic, circus or folk music performance each year.

There were few changes in the popularity of genres compared to the 2013 survey. However, there was a significant shift in the importance of the offerings of cultural institutions: 55% of respondents now felt they were important for themselves and their well-being, up by 11 percentage points from the previous survey. “The long pandemic lockdown period may have made people more aware of the importance of culture,” Arjava suggests.

Of the functions of art, the addition of entertainment or comfort to everyday life (86%), the broadening of general education (79%), and the provision of aesthetic experiences (78%) were valued most highly. What artists most valued were guiding people to deep thought or to see things in new ways (96%) and the provision of aesthetic experiences (94%). Towards the end of the scale for both artists and the general public were provocation and disruption, and the provision of financial added value.

Extensive support for public funding of art

A clear majority (63%) of the survey’s respondents supported the provision of arts funding from tax revenue, in order that it be available to all. This proportion was even higher than those for whom the offerings of cultural institutions were personally important. Public funding for the arts was even supported by nearly one half of the most passive consumers of culture.

It was also extensively supported right across party allegiances, with the exception of the Finns Party’s supporters, of whom one half were opposed. As many as 97% of artists supported the funding of art from tax revenue. In contrast, artists were not keen on the idea of cultural institutions obtaining more funding directly from the audience: it was supported by only 22% of artists, compared to 53% of the general public.

More respondents (41%) considered the pandemic aid given to the arts to have been too small than too large (10%). One quarter considered the aid to have been suitable, while another quarter did not know. Supporters of the Left Alliance (61%) and the Greens (54%) were most likely to dismiss the aid as too small, but even 30% of Finns Party supporters agreed.

Art for the public; not for colleagues and critics

Differences could be discerned between the views of artists and their audiences, but over 70% of both groups agreed at least to some extent with the claim that artists should address their messages towards the public rather than to their colleagues or critics.  

One half of citizens hoped for a broader group of people deciding on arts funding besides professionals, while professional respondents were less sympathetic, with 64% opposed to the idea. Around one half of both the public and artists considered a service voucher funded by taxpayers a good way of letting the public influence arts funding.

A greater disagreement was found in responses to the claim that “funding should be directed at art valued by professionals and other artists, even if its audiences are small”: only one in four respondents agreed. The corresponding figure among the most active patrons of the art was around 50%, while among artists it was as much as 80%.

The survey also investigated respondents’ views on cultural journalism, their reasons for not partaking of cultural offerings, and their wishes for cultural services to be made available in their own localities. The survey was conducted by Kantar TNS Oy in February/March 2022 and received some 4,600 responses from people in Finland aged over 15. Some of the questions were also sent via artists’ organisations to professionals in the arts, of whom more than 200 responded.

The full research report may be read (in Finnish) on the Cultural Foundation’s website at

Further information:
Yliasiamies Antti Arjava
Secretary General