New Rutgers-Eagleton poll shows the importance of arts in education
Ninety percent of New Jerseyans believe that receiving arts education in the classroom is important, according to the Arts Ed NJ poll, conducted by the Eagleton Institute of Politics.
According to the poll, half or more of residents believe arts education is just as important as other subjects, including English language arts at 53 percent, science at 50 percent, social studies at 56 percent, computer science at 49 percent, health and physical education at 56 percent and world languages at 54 percent.
The poll was carried out through telephone surveys, and 714 interviews were conducted and completed among adults in New Jersey, said Ashley Koning, manager of the Rutgers-Eagleton poll.
“Rutgers-Eagleton polls are our statewide public opinion polls of New Jersey, which we’ve been doing since 1971. We have almost four decades of data. Any statewide poll is a telephone survey of the statewide population, and telephone surveys are sort of the gold standard in survey research,” Koning said.
She said they typically collect between 600 and 900 interviews, which gives them statistical confidence that, within a certain margin of error, these results accurately portray how the population as a whole feels.
According to the poll, for questions regarding the importance of art education, possible answers were broken up into categories of very important, somewhat important, not very important, not at all important and “do not know.” This is done so participants do not feel their choices are limited when expressing how they feel about the topic, Koning said.
“Public opinion is not only about the direction and the valence of if something is positive or negative, but it is also very much about the degree to which somebody feels that way as well,” she said.
Two areas where New Jerseyans still feel divided are in actively getting involved with the arts in their community, and the amount of funding public schools put into art education.
More than half of residents surveyed had not taken a child to a program or event, donated, raised money, volunteered or shared something on social media within the past year that was related to the arts in their local community, according to the poll.
Bob Morrison, founder and president of Arts Ed NJ, said that this demonstrates how people care but often times they do not know how to care effectively. The next step toward higher participation is helping people understand how they can get involved in ways such as talking with school officials, going to events and just talking with other people involved with the arts.
Koning said that another explanation for the high support but lower levels of involvement could be because the arts are just not on certain people’s minds.
“I think things like being a parent and actually having a child in a school system may make people more involved. They also may be more likely to think it’s important,” she said.
The findings from the 2017 New Jersey Arts Education Census Summary Report may echo that sentiment, as the report highlights significant gains in participation in the arts amongst students in New Jersey schools.
“More than 76 (percent) of all students in New Jersey now participate in arts education every year. In the past decade, we have seen a 12 percent increase in student participation. This means an additional 100,000 students annually participate in arts education bringing the yearly total to nearly one million students,” according to the report.
Also stated in the Rutgers-Eagleton and Arts Ed NJ poll is that about half of New Jerseyans believe their public school district does not spend enough on funding for the arts.
Koning said that certain partisanships were found within certain demographics, and that may help explain the division.
“Women, minority residents and those in lower income areas are all more likely to say there is not enough funding,” she said.
Koning said that this also relates back to the idea that people already involved with the arts, such as those with children, are more likely to see its importance.
“All of these questions are related to one another. If you think it’s more important you may be more likely to participate. If you’re more likely to participate by the same token you may think it’s more important,” she said.
Morrison says that since Arts Ed NJ was established in 2007, much progress has been made in terms of access to and participation in the arts.
“It is hard to get 50 percent of New Jersey to agree on anything let alone 90 percent saying this is important,” Morrison said. “This sends a strong signal that arts education is highly valued in New Jersey.”
Ryan Stiesi is a sophomore in the School of Arts and Sciences. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.