Circus Now collaborated with the American Youth Circus Organization/American Circus Educators Association to create the first ever “State of Circus ” survey this year. The survey was opened August 1st and ran through Sept 30th. After two months and 710 responses, we decided it was time to close up and share the results!

Some sections are more interesting than others, and sometimes I make jokes as we look at the data together. The demographics section doesn’t have any jokes.

A couple things to bear in mind as you read:

1) More Data, Please! – Rough estimates have placed the number of people participating in circus in the US around 10,000, and that number is conservative. So while we’re pleased that 710 people responded to this survey, that’s a pretty small sample.

2) Just a Ballpark – The other thing to remember is that the survey was conducted online; there were plenty of open response questions and very little spam, but no way of verifying any individuals response.

3) Unofficially Official – This survey was pretty informal, and was by no means any sort of rigorous academic exercise; but it did give us some pretty cool information!


Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 10.03.48 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 10.04.01 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 10.04.16 PMScreen Shot 2014-09-30 at 10.04.09 PM

Survey participants were mostly between the ages of 18-44, with the bulk of people participating being between the ages of 25-34. About two thirds of the respondents were women, and 43% have completed a college education.

The interesting thing to notice is how evenly spread the respondents were on annual income; while 23% reported an annual income of under 25k and 17% an income over 100k, the spread is otherwise remarkably even. Given that participation in recreational athletics and arts is usually tied to affluence, this apparent economic spread is interesting to note, especially given that most of the respondents (75%) didn’t mark circus as their primary source of income (see the next section).

It’s important to remember and consider the data as a whole as well; in the next section we’ll see that most of the respondents have other sources of income, and so by-in-large the survey tapped the adult recreational sector more than the professional sector. Given that the survey was really only shared through social media, it’s unsurprising that the 25-34 age group had the highest representation.

While the survey did address race and ethnic origin, we chose to let people fill in their own race and ethnic origin, and so the data isn’t easy to interpret in nice easy categories. Probably the most interesting thing to note about this data was the wide range of responses; very few entries contained the stock responses, and almost everyone who participated in the question wrote a very personal little description. Very little can be drawn from this beyond noting that the data was so wide ranging that it was difficult to interpret.


Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 10.53.09 PMThe recreational sector being well represented by respondents! 285 respondents said they were teachers, 235 identified as emerging artists and 290 said they take classes for fun and fitness. Since anyone could select multiple answers in this question, it’s impossible to know what overlap exists, but it certainly gives us some great questions for next year.

This data set by itself shows the diversity of ways that people love to engage with circus, with the 3 most popular answers being “I am a circus fan!”, “I take classes for fun/community/fitness” and “I teach circus arts.”

The emerging professionals outnumber the current professionals…which is really quite surprising, said no one ever.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 10.53.32 PM
Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 10.53.27 PM

Most of the respondents were either junkies or once-a-week types; 51% spend either 1-4 hours engaging with circus or 20+ hours, despite the fact that only 25% claim circus is their primary source of income.

It seems safe to assume that there is at least a portion of people for whom circus is not their primary income, but who spend 20+ hours per week engaging with it! That’s really remarkable, but perhaps a bit of a stretch given the data.

The other interesting thing about the 25% who do claim circus as their primary income is the comparison with the number of teachers and performers listed above. 285 people said they “teach circus arts,” but only 180 claim circus as their primary source of income. This seems to indicate the presence of people who teach circus “recreationally” as well as participating recreationally…again, surprising no one.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.14.16 PM

Why do most people engage with circus? It is apparently all about the money…for 5/710 people. Those people are probably just kidding.

48% of respondents said they were in it for either personal growth or the sense of community, and 34% claimed that either artistic value or the creative outlet were their primary motivators.


Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at 12.14.20 AM

The circus is alive and well in all its diversity! With the caveat that almost 50% of respondents practice aerial silks and that partner acrobatics and aerials in general have high numbers, the other disciplines have reasonable and expected numbers; equestrian arts, despite being rare and difficult to find training in, had a surprising 11 responses. If we take the general idea that this survey was a little less then 10% of people participating in circus, that means there are probably a little more than 100 equestrian artists in the US. We’re not sure what the 76 “Other” categories could be, but chances are they are so awesome we should include them next year. If you practice something not listed here, put a video in the comments and blow us all away!



Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.28.52 PM

This was some of the most valuable information for us. The overwhelming majority of respondents were not members of any organization for the reasons that you either didn’t know about them or didn’t understand what they do.

This is really awesome for us to know, and you can be sure that you’ll be seeing more from Circus Now and Ace/AYCO explaining what we do and why it’s so important for you to become a member! For a sector that people participate in mainly for the sense of community, the big national community organizations have some work to do to help everyone feel included and connected.

The good news is that based on the responses of people who ARE members of either organization, we seem to be doing our jobs! Most people said the most important thing about their membership was “Connecting with others in the circus community,” and that’s exactly what we’re here to help you do in more and more meaningful ways.

(If you’re interested in membership to Circus Now, GO HERE. If you’re interested in membership with the American Circus Educators Association, GO HERE. Shameless plug that was.)


Drum roll please! How would survey respondents like to see the industry evolve in the next five or ten years?

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 11.34.43 PM

EVERY WAY. This was echoed by another question in this section where people were asked to rank the importance of different aspects of the industry to the future of circus…and the respondents pretty much said that everything was “very important.” Community Building got the most “very important” votes with 428 (can you say ACE Educators Conference?), but Performance Opportunities came a close second with 410 (can you say CN-ICE?). ¬†While Research, News and Information got the lowest number of “very important” votes, it got the highest count of “somewhat important” votes (239). The truth is that our sector is really just emerging in a really new and exciting way, as a combination art-sport (spart?) with people engaging through education/fitness/art/social-awareness/academia and in so many other ways. There really are innumerable ways to engage with circus today.


We made it. Double points to YOU for reading all of it!

It may seem like a lot, it may seem like a little, but this survey actual tells us a LOT of awesome things about our sector right now. If you indicated on the survey that you would be interested in taking part in a focus group, we’ll be contacting you soon with more information. If you’d like to write your own article about the results, that’s AWESOME…email our blog manager,


Does anything surprise you? What suggestions do you have for next year? Are you bummed you didn’t get to fill it out? Do you practice an awesome circus discipline we should see you doing? Post in the comments!