Understanding cultural omnivores: social and political attitudes

Publication type

Conference Paper


Tak Wing Chan

Publication date


I use data from the British Household Panel Survey and Understanding Society to investigate the social and political attitudes of cultural omnivores. I report a threefold typology of visual arts consumption that is consistent with previous research. Then by linking data across the two panel surveys, I show that cultural consumption is associated with a wide range of social attitudes, the net magnitude of which is comparable to the associations with education. Specifically, omnivores are more trusting than visual arts inactives. They hold more favourable views about the European Union, and they tend to eschew subnational and ethnic identities. Omnivores are ‘greener’, and are more liberal on gender role and homosexuality. Although omnivores are less likely to belong to a religion, they are more likely to attend religious services, albeit infrequently. Omnivores are more politically engaged. But they are not more ‘class conscious’. Nor are they particularly left-wing or right-wing on distributional issues. When asked what is important to the sense of who they are, their profession or education does not appear especially salient. But omnivores are more extrovert and open to new experiences. Taken together, these results challenge the view that omnivorousness is just a new form of distinction, and suggest a more nuanced relationship between cultural consumption and social stratification.


Education, Arts and Social Mobility