The omnivorous orientation in the UK

Warde, Alan; Wright, David and Gayo-Cal, Modesto (2008). The omnivorous orientation in the UK. Poetics, 36(2-3) pp. 148–165.



This paper uses the findings from a new study of cultural tastes and participation in the UK to explore the characteristics of the cultural omnivore. It identifies some uncertainty in the existing literature about the precise elements of an omnivorous orientation in relation to (i) the relative importance of volume and composition of omnivorous tastes, (ii) the reliance on the secondary analysis of survey data for the identification and exposition of omnivorousness and (iii) the relationship between tolerance for a range of cultural items and other forms of tolerance. Taking as a starting point the claim that cultural omnivores are relatively open to diversity, and drawing on both survey data and qualitative interviews with omnivores, the paper analyses the characteristics of an omnivorous portfolio and considers in detail what and how omnivores dislike. It concludes that, whilst there is strong evidence of a decline in overt snobbishness in the UK, there is also evidence that omnivores have a more intensive involvement with ‘legitimate’ culture which goes alongside a selective appropriation of popular culture. In particular their dislikes reveal limits to openness which imply, paradoxically, a role for an omnivorous orientation in processes of distinction.

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