Visiting museums is rarely an isolated phenomenon, but usually a part of cultural practices such as trips to historic and monumental cities or sites, going to theatres and other cultural venues, listening to music or reading books. That is the reason why museum visits are - as a rule - included in population or sample surveys on cultural participation. In these surveys a sample of respondents which is considered to be statistically representative for the inhabitants of a country or a region is questioned about their cultural practices. Most survey questionnaires contain only a few questions about museum visits: the number of visits during the reference period (usually the last 12 month), the kind of visited museums and sometimes the location of the museums visited (own commune or region, elsewhere in the country, abroad).
A population survey could be restricted to cultural practices only: the so called dedicated survey. Questions about these practices could be also a part – usually called a module - of a more comprehensive survey; for instance on leisure time activities, use of social services and amenities, or time use survey. Dedicated surveys make it possible to ask more, and more detailed questions about cultural practices. However, being focused on cultural participation, these surveys tend to overestimate the level and the frequency of cultural activities.
Population surveys are suited for discerning the social-demographic composition of the part of population that visits museums: in terms of age, gender, educational attainment, occupational status etc. The analysis of the results makes it also possible to discover the correlation between visiting museum and other cultural practices. As the most surveys are recurrent, the developments and trends in going to museums and other kinds of cultural participation can be studied as well.
Many European countries have sample surveys of the cultural practices. Here you find the provisory list of the most recent national surveys.