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Ontarians believe more passionately in the importance of the arts than they did 16 years ago, a survey suggests.

The poll, conducted by Environics Research Group on behalf of the Ontario Arts Council, documents the attitudes of the province's residents toward the arts as an issue of the quality of life, both for individuals and communities.

The survey, which was released on Wednesday, is partly composed of six duplicate questions from the last similar survey, conducted in 1994, and the responses to five showed stronger sentiment in favour of the arts. About 73 per cent of respondents said they would miss the arts if they were not available in their community, up six percentage points from 1994, while 81 per cent said the arts are important to their own quality of life, up seven points.

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Of the six repeated questions, the only decline was in those who felt the success of Canadian artists gave them a sense of pride in Canadian achievement, to 95 per cent from 96. Many of the gains came from those who strongly backed the arts.

The survey also shows agreement across all regions of the province and all demographics, although women, those with higher education and those living in larger communities are typically the most ardent arts supporters.

Kathryn Townshend, the Ontario Arts Council's director of research, policy and evaluation, stressed the important of documenting support for the arts, in part to bolster appeals to governments and to potential donors and sponsors. A total of 81 per cent of respondents said governments should support the arts with public money.

Also, the results suggest that nearly two-thirds of Ontarians believe that the arts are of greater benefit to the community as a whole than simply to those who attend artistic events. "Regardless of how people felt personally about the arts, they still recognized the value of the arts in their community. There's a sense that arts is seen as a public good," Townshend said.

The poll surveyed 1,000 adults and is considered accurate within 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

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