What do state legislators really think about the arts?

What kinds of data and arguments do they find most persuasive?

These are questions that NASAA and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) set out to explore together. NASAA and NCSL share a long history of research collaboration. One of our most creative collaborations was a research project in which NASAA and NCSL conducted a series of focus groups: four candid conversations designed to diagnose what state decision makers value, how the arts can connect to those interests, and what kinds of information are most relevant and persuasive.

View a presentation reviewing the results and their implications.

Download the full report.

Read the NASAA CEO's reflections on the findings.

Learn more about the project.

Why Should Government Support the Arts?

About the Focus Groups

Professionally moderated by an independent opinion research firm, the focus groups engaged 36 state legislators and legislative staffers from across the country. The participants, recruited by NCSL, represented a wide cross-section of partisan affiliations, political philosophies, geographic interests and demographic characteristics. Extra care was taken to target fiscal affairs staffers and legislators who play leadership roles on state budget committees and to include individuals who oppose public funding for the arts. The research findings summarize their opinions about:

  • Policy problems facing states
  • Arguments for and against public arts funding
  • Legislative data needs
  • Strategies for garnering legislative support
  • Critiques of current arts advocacy practices

As you read the report, remember that it captures the perceptions of participating legislators and staffers (not necessarily all legislators, and not NASAA, NCSL or any advocacy group). This research reveals how the focus group participants view the arts world, which may or may not align with your own views. That's the value of opinion research. It can help you test your own perceptions while stimulating your thinking about how to shape the perceptions of others.

About Our Partners

NCSL Shugoll Research NASAA sponsors: NCSL, The ALtria Group, and Shugoll Research

NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves legislators and legislative staffs, providing highly influential policy information and technical assistance to a national membership. By including the arts in its committee structure and issue portfolio, NCSL encourages informed decision making about cultural policy at the state level. NASAA also wishes to thank Altria Group, Inc. for its generous support of our collaboration and Shugoll Research for its professional research services.

NASAA's mission is to strengthen state arts agencies.
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