Liberal vs. Conservative listening habits

April 21, 2008

A fascinating poll on the Norman Lear Center website about the musical tastes of conservatives and liberals. I would be curious to redo this poll when all the baby boomers are senior citizens.

There are many interesting conclusions one can draw from this information and composers would do well to think long and hard about these implications.

Liberals enjoy a broad range of music, while conservatives dislike most music genres.

* Out of 15 musical genres, conservatives were more likely than the rest of the respondents to listen to only two of them: country and gospel. What genre are they least likely to listen to, compared to the rest of the respondents? Not punk or hip-hop, as you might expect, but world music. World music is also the music genre where we see the greatest difference between conservatives and liberals.
* Conservatives are the least likely group to listen to jazz (34% vs. 44% vs. 53%) and reggae (8% vs. 20% vs. 26%).
* Over 90% of conservatives said they never enjoy reggae, electronic music or Latin music. Over 95% said they never enjoy world music and punk music.
* Liberals, on the other hand, are more likely than other respondents to enjoy almost every music genre, including world, punk, Latin, hip-hop and rap, blues, reggae, electronica, R&B and soul, jazz, folk and traditional music. Rock was the most popular genre among liberals (67%).
* Although all political types claimed they enjoy classical music, moderates were the least enamored with it (55.5% listen to it compared to almost 62% of the rest of respondents). Moderates also showed their distaste for folk & traditional music (72.5% said they don’t listen to it, compared to 62.4% of the rest of the respondents), and they joined conservatives in their distaste for world music (90% said they don’t listen to it, compared to 71% of liberals.)
* Moderates’ favorite music is rock (58%). Conservatives’ favorite music is classical (60%) followed by country (56%) and rock (55%).

Say that one more time please: “Conservatives’ favorite music is classical (60%) followed by country (56%) and rock (55%).” Say what??


{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Brad Wood April 21, 2008 at 10:50 pm

It would be interesting to map the x-y plane that results from this

to the multidimensional space of musical preferences.

cantelou74 April 22, 2008 at 4:21 am

Did this poll take access to musical styles into account? Did it take into account economic status and geographic location? If you had never heard something you would know to categorize as “world music,” would you say that you “enjoy” it? And perhaps we should question a category that lumps Tibetan chant, Japanese drums, rai, Bulgarian singing and kora music all together.

Roger Bourland April 22, 2008 at 7:35 am

Check out the link to the original article to learn more. It is a strange, strange bit of data.

bassplaya26 May 6, 2008 at 8:19 pm

I find this highly unlikely, being a conservative who is a bassist & guitarist who plays jazz, rock, blues and reggae and I have traveled quite a bit. I know many conservatives in many different demographics who listen to jazz, classical as well as ‘world music’, although the point is well taken that the huge grouping of world music means many more fans could not like parts of each particular genre but still fall under world music. I love listening to swedish rock & jazz as well as german industrial – wonder if that counts. On a side note I don’t know many of my conservative friends who listen to country, although according to Obama apparently all midwesterners listen to country in their religious gun-toting pick-ups. Lol, no bias in the media, my ass.

Roger Bourland May 6, 2008 at 9:55 pm

But wouldn’t you think the Norman Lear Institute would do a responsible job? Well, I have to admit I choked on a few of the results myself, and that is partially why I posted it. I’ll post the one from the year before which was also fairly surprising.

Fred_PA_2000 July 17, 2008 at 9:14 pm

I note that there are some responses that don’t seem to match up with reality: Particularly, (1) I believe something like 96% of these respondents said they are likely to vote — which looks very odd next to the 50% or so participation rates most U.S. elections draw; and (2) There’s a claim (I don’t recall whether it’s just conservatives or the entire sample) that classical is the most popular music — which will be a surprise to the U.S.’s struggling classical stations (and to her thriving pop, rock & country stations). There is a common problem in such surveys of people saying what they think is expected or desired of them, and that appears to have happened here.

I would also be interested in how the political classifications were drawn. And whether that subject was probed before or after exploring the respondent’s tastes in the arts. If before, it may well be leading self-classified conservatives or liberals to express the tastes they think they’re supposed to have, rather than the ones they do.

Brad Wood raises a good point; Are these social- or economic- liberals / conservatives? And Cantelou74’s comment about access is very much to the point; How valid is someone’s statement of preference for a genre he/she has never heard? Finally, Roger Bourland’s comment about the Norman Lear Institute doing a responsible job might be seen by some as very much open to question; Mr. Lear’s personal politics were pretty far to the Left, and I suspect he would not be happy with any survey result that portrayed Conservatives favorably or Liberals less so.

Roger Bourland July 18, 2008 at 9:25 am

All good questions Fred, one would “assume” that an organization with Lear’s name on it would be trustworthy, but I may have been naiive to assume so. I posted this because the conclusions seemed so odd. Perhaps these questions need to go to the group that came up with these conclusions.

I need to slap myself from time to time and be reminded that just because you find something on the internet doesn’t necessarily mean it is true.

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