Understanding cultural omnivores: social and political attitudes

Publication type

Journal Article

Published in

British Journal of Sociology


Tak Wing Chan

Publication date


In this paper, 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 cultural consumption in the domains of music and visual arts that is consistent with previous research. Then by linking data across the two panel surveys, I show that cultural omnivores have quite a distinctive profile of social attitudes. Specifically, omnivores are more trusting and risk‐taking. They hold more favourable views about the European Union, and they tend to eschew subnational identities. Omnivores are politically more 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, the two most important status‐conferring attributes, that is, profession and education, are not more salient to omnivores than to others. But omnivores are more extravert and open to new experiences. Taken together, these results suggest that omnivorousness is an expression of cosmopolitan postmaterialism rather than a new form of distinction.

Volume and page numbers

70, 784-806






Psychology, Education, Arts, Social Attitudes, Sociology and Social Mobility