The most popular, obscure, Democratic, Republican and hated music in America

The data has spoken: Americans really love classic rock.

The Aerosmith-i-verse draws its strongest support from Republicans and older Americans, almost a third of whom peg it as their favorite, according to the 1,000 representative U.S. adults polled last year by our friends at YouGov. Democrats are half as likely to pick classic rock as their favorite, but its dominance is so complete that even at 15 percent, it beats all other types of music on the left.

The guitar-god genre’s weirdly widespread appeal has, of course, been the point since its birth as a 1980s radio format. It’s less a style of music than it is a loose confederation of hoary hits that those of us in the less-than-hip, middle-aged masses maybe wouldn’t mind hearing on the radio for the 817th time.

Because radio stations relentlessly appropriated fresh waves of chart-toppers as they aged, classic rock defies definition. One source says it began with “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” by the Beatles in 1967 and ended with “Fragile” by Nine Inch Nails in 1999. Once the mark of a leather-jacketed renegade, it has become the anodyne soundtrack of modern life. The Rolling Stones have evolved from infamy at Altamont to ubiquity at fast-casual restaurants, from “Gimme Shelter” to gimme seltzer.


Summarized stories to quickly stay informed

It’s not just polls: Most (15 of the 25) top-selling artists in U.S. history would get substantial play on classic rock stations, by our count.

Only a handful of us are able to resist the call of the Eagles. Black Americans rated R&B tops. Hispanic Americans preferred Latin music. Millennials picked pop. Zoomers went with rap.

Americans also say classic rock best reflects their lives. But when YouGov asked what best represents the nation today, about 37 percent of those polled said rap and 36 percent said country. (That is essentially a tie. The margin of error for this poll is 3.3 percentage points — more if you’re looking within small groups. While we’re here in the fine print, we’ll also note that apart from the question about your favorite genre, YouGov usually allowed folks to pick more than one answer.)

Country drew its highest support from retirement-age Americans — 50 percent of those older than 65 said it was the most representative, more than double the rating it got from zoomers or Black Americans. Rap pulled its strongest support from Black Americans, high earners, millennials and Democrats.

Of course, like attachment parenting and dashboard infotainment systems, hip-hop is a recent invention that suddenly became inescapable. If you ask instead what genre most represents classic Americana, almost every demographic agrees on country. The exceptions are Black Americans, who stick with hip-hop, and young Americans, who pick pop. Midwesterners, for some reason, lean toward classic rock.

Rap and country also vie for biggest cultural impact, with country eking out a lead: 36 percent to 35 percent. The virtual tie reflects an illuminating split nationwide, with older, Whiter and more Republican folks leaning toward country, and younger, more left-leaning, and Black and Hispanic Americans picking hip-hop.

Indie and alternative rockers will be crushed to hear that their chosen genres — which essentially are defined as music most people haven’t heard of — were not the most obscure in the poll. In the sweepstakes of which musical style inspired people to say they were “not sure” how they felt about it, indie came in third. Most demographics rated world music as the most obscure, while new age got obscurity points from Black and Hispanic people, as well as zoomers.

But we’re not limited simply to superlatives here. Because this is YouGov — a top five political pollster, according to 538 — we also have approval ratings!

Again, classic rock easily wins the best approval rating. As in politics, we’re looking at how many people love or like it and then subtracting how many people dislike or hate it to get a net approval rating. Pop, R&B, blues and country also do well by this metric. Many genres do, to be honest. Americans just plain like music!

Punk’s the only musical style to pull a negative approval rating. Which, honestly, probably sounds like a badge of honor to the folks who brought you such punk classics as “Killing for Jesus,” “Armed and Stupid” and “Stealing People’s Mail.”

Punk’s biggest fans are, by far, millennials. They give it double the approval rating of the next highest group, the zoomers. Beyond the top two, the outsiders who brought you “Let’s Lynch the Landlord” will be horrified to learn that they get their third-highest rating from the highest earners, families that make what used to be called a six-figure income.

But really, punk comes out on top overall only because anti-mohawk sentiment crosses party lines. Republicans actually save their worst ratings for rap, while Democrats tend to more-than-dislike Christian music.

Hip-hop, while polarizing, enjoys immense support among zoomers and millennials, as well as their Black and Hispanic compatriots. In particular, more than half of Black Americans say they “love” the genre, one of the strongest love ratings in the entire survey. Other top relationships include Black Americans and R&B and soul/funk, and Gen X and Midwesterners and classic rock.

Punk is the worst-rated genre in the South. In the Midwest, that honor goes to Latin music, presumably because the region has the nation’s smallest Hispanic population by a wide margin. In the Northeast and the West, the two least rural regions by population, the worst-rated genre is contemporary Christian.

Contemporary Christian draws its strongest favorability from Black Americans, Republicans and Southerners. That first group may not be surprising — Black Americans rank among the most likely to dish out positive ratings, no matter the genre. Republicans tend to be stingier. In fact, Christian music is one of the only genres that is more approved by Republicans than by Democrats. (The others are country, classic rock and gospel/choir.)

We know from reading thousands of your comments and emails over the past few years that this will raise a simple question among our bipartisan readership: Do Republicans hate music?

When you take the typical net rating across genres, Republicans offer the second-lowest rating of any group. The demographic offering the absolute lowest median rating are folks 65 and older. Older Americans lean Republican, and they dished out the single most negative net ratings in the entire survey to punk rock and rap, which they clearly dislike in droves.

In fact, older folks give the thumbs down with impunity to all kinds of genres. Dance and electronic, new age, alternative/indie, world music, Latin music, reggae, and even pop and R&B see their ratings plunge among Gen X and boomers. On the other end of the spectrum, blues and classic rock seem to grow more popular with age, as Pete Townshend’s “I hope I die before I get old” generation weighs the benefits of Medicare Advantage.

What else might be going on here? It’s worth noting that many of the genres with the biggest partisan approval gap stem from America’s deep tradition of Black music. The YouGov poll lumps together two of Republicans’ favorite genres, country and western, but separates the surfeit of styles that emerged from African American culture.

Black musicians shaped many of our most influential sounds, from blues and jazz to soul, funk and, of course, R&B and rap — which were once classified by Billboard as “Race Records” and later “Black Singles.” (We’ll also count reggae here — it grew from similar roots in Jamaica — but not gospel/choir, since YouGov’s inclusion of choir opened the genre up beyond gospel’s roots in Black churches. We also consider classic rock to be distinct from rock-and-roll’s Black roots.)

Take out those genres, and Republicans don’t look so negative. Go further and remove Latin and world music, and the gap almost vanishes. In other words, if you don’t count music with the clearest origins outside White American culture, Democrats and Republicans disapprove of music at similar rates.

So the apparent negativity of Republicans could reflect YouGov’s choices about which categories of music to include in the poll. Or it could show something inherent in the right’s attitude toward music. Or, more likely, it’s both.

Hello! The Department of Data continues its quest for queries. What are you curious about: What state has the strongest family ties? Who spends the most money on lottery tickets? What are America’s most-polluted rivers? How many people now earn six figures? Just ask!

If your question inspires a column, we’ll send you an official Department of Data button and ID card. This week’s buttons go to Rick Amado in Amsterdam, who asked us to compare folks’ music playlists and their politics, and to Stephanie Killian in Kennesaw, Ga., who asked how many folks cling to the music of their youth instead of embracing more modern tunes.

Source link


You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.