Compelled to remain at home by the pandemic, millions of Americans actively engaged with the humanities, according to a recent survey commissioned by the Humanities Indicators, a project of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The nationally representative survey of 1,000 adults in May 2020 found that during the stay-at-home restrictions Americans engaged in an average of five humanities activities at least sometimes.
Among the key findings:
History: Watching shows with historical content was the most popular activity by a wide margin, with over 70 percent of American adults watching these shows at least sometimes, and approximately a quarter watching very often. The second most-commonly engaged in activity was also history-related. The survey found that 55 percent of Americans spent at least some time researching a history subject of interest (via the Internet or other means).
Reading: More than half of Americans read fiction books sometimes or more often during the lockdown, although almost one-third did not read fiction at all. A somewhat smaller share (47 percent) read nonfiction at least occasionally, with 28 percent of adults doing so often or very often.
This survey was a follow-up to a much larger, national survey about public engagement with and attitudes toward the humanities that was conducted in fall 2019 (with responses from 5,015 Americans). That study was the first of its kind and will be published in November by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. It will provide more detailed information as to who engages in these activities—and how often; how Americans feel about the humanities; how they experienced the humanities as children; and the role the humanities play in Americans’ work lives. You can register to be among the first to learn about the release, and to receive invitations to the roll-out event and subsequent conversations about the study’s findings.
Direct to All Survey Findings/Chart