Public Perceptions Studies

Archaeology today is not necessarily the archaeology of yesteryear, and the way that the public thinks about archaeology changes over time. With that in mind, finding appropriate ways to engage and include the public in archaeology can be a challenge. The first step to address this challenge is to learn what the public knows (or doesn’t) and thinks about archaeology. By polling American adults, these data help archaeologists understand where greater attention is needed and support public education efforts. SAA members can view the data in the Member Center's Surveys and Reports.

2023 American Perceptions of Archaeology Poll

Americans' overall interest and familiarity with the subject of archaeology remains unchanged since 2018, with the majority of Americans expressing at least some interest in the subject. Not only do the majority of Americans believe the work of an archaeologist is important to the nation as a whole, but the majority also agree that the U.S. government should focus on creating laws to increase the funding and preservation of archaeological sites. Ipsos contacted a random sample of 1,005 adults across the United States. Questions focused on the public's interest in archaeology and its importance.

The project was made possible through donations to the Society for American Archaeology's Public Education Endowment Fund, as well as contributions from the Society for Historical Archaeology, Archaeological Institute of America, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and Peabody Institute of Archaeology.

The two infographics below show highlights of the poll results: The Value of American Archaeology [PDF 234 KB] and American Education and Archaeology [PDF 211 KB]. Read the full report provided by Ipsos [PDF 546 KB] or watch a summary video of the key findings.

Past Perception Polls

2018 Ipsos Poll

A majority of Americans overwhelmingly value the work of archaeologists, according to the 2018 poll released by the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) and Ipsos, with a clear majority supporting increased protections and funding for archaeology. The poll found that 93% of Americans say the work archaeologists do is important. More than half believe the US should increase funding for archaeology and enact stronger laws to protect sites and artifacts. Ipsos contacted a random sample of 1,024 adults across the United States. Questions focused on the public's interest in archaeology and its importance.

Two infographics show highlights of the poll results: Americans Value the Work of Archaeologists [PDF 294 KB] and American Opinions About Archaeology & Education [PDF 541 KB]. The full report provided by Ipsos [PDF 461 KB] is available to read online.

2000 Harris Poll

A poll conducted by Harris Interactive in 2000 found that most Americans support the goals and practice of archaeology, endorse laws protecting archaeological sites and artifacts, and think archaeology is important to today's society. Although they may be unclear about the primary activities of and topics studied by archaeologists, a majority (60%) of the public believes in the value to society of archaeological research and education. Harris contacted a random sample of 1,016 adults across the continental United States. Questions centered on the public's grasp of, and participation in, archaeology.

The project was instituted by a coalition of archaeological organizations, including the Society for American Archaeology, the Archaeological Conservancy, Archaeological Institute of America, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, Forest Service, National Park Service, and the Society for Historical Archaeology.

For further details, download the full Harris report [PDF 155 KB].