Majority say museums should take a stance on the climate crisis - Museums Association

Majority say museums should take a stance on the climate crisis

Younger generations were much more likely to believe that cultural organisations should take a position

A majority of people believe that museums, galleries and heritage sites should take a stance on the climate crisis, according to new research.

In an online survey by the Audience Agency, 51% of people agreed with the statement that these venues “should take a stance” on climate change.

Forty-seven per cent of people took this view in relation to live cultural venues, and 53% about visitor attractions.

Large proportions of people also believe that cultural organisations should take a stance on other social issues, according to the research – with just under half saying this about each of the three categories of venue.

In addition, 51% of all respondents said that they prefer to go to cultural venues “which I know share my values”.

The Audience Agency said that while this result may seem close-run, there were far more people for whom organisations sharing their own values was “a positive driving attendance factor”.

Generational divide

Younger generations were much more likely to believe that organisations should take a stance.

Within generation Z (those aged between 16 and 24), 52% said organisations should take a stance on climate change, along with 57% of millennials (aged between 25 and 44). In contrast, only 21% of people aged over 44 believed this.

An even stronger generational divide was apparent for “other social issues”. Here, 62% of generation Z respondents, and 58% of millennials, wanted to see organisations taking a stance – compared to 19% of respondents aged over 44.

There was also a clear generational difference around which behaviours people would like to see permitted at live cultural events. Generation Z respondents were more likely to say that being allowed to do things like eat or drink, take photos or talk to others would encourage them to attend.

Overall, being allowed to take photos, eat or drink and move around made people more likely to want to attend live events, while permission to smoke or vape, talk on the phone or make other noise made people less likely to want to go.


The Audience Agency said that the preferences of younger audiences for more relaxed behavioural regulations “raises interesting questions about the increasingly different experiential tastes and expectations that venues may need to be prepared to cater to in the not so distant future”.

Falling attendance

The survey results also suggest falling rates of cultural attendance. Among all respondents, 38% said they were attending less than they were before the pandemic, with only 12% increasing attendance.

Reported rates of attendance were also down compared to 12 months ago (with 35% attending less and 13% attending more).

Oliver Mantell, director of insight and evidence at the Audience Agency, commented: “Younger people are more likely to want organisations to align with their values and to take a stand on social and climate issues, as well as to prefer a wider range of permitted behaviours when attending cultural venues of all kinds. These groups will form an increasing share of audiences in the future (as they are already, given shifts in audience profiles since the pandemic).

“This suggests we are likely to see a shift in expectations on cultural venues, with pressure for more informal experiences (including more digital and social interaction), and for venues to be more value-led and outspoken about those values.”

Anne Torreggiani, chief executive of The Audience Agency, said: “These insights point to a changed role for organisations – we need to think about amplifying our social values, becoming a community resource, being prepared to join the conversation, creating opportunities for debate.”

The Audience Agency surveyed a nationally representative sample of 2,463 people for the summer 2023 wave of its Cultural Participation Monitor.

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