Americans' opinions on 20 different music genres, from classic rock to hip-hop and rap

Linley SandersData Journalist
May 11, 2023, 2:49 PM GMT+0

There are major differences in the music preferences of older Americans compared to younger adults, according to a new YouGov poll —with rap and hip-hop proving particularly divisive.

To determine Americans' favorite music genre, YouGov asked people to say whether they love, like, dislike, or hate 20 genres of music. From that data, YouGov determined each genre's net popularity score — that is, how much more likely Americans are to say they love or like a genre of music than to say they dislike or hate it. Classic rock is overwhelmingly popular among all Americans, for instance, earning a net score of +70 — but older adults (+80) show an even greater appreciation for it than younger adults (+57).

Some music is especially popular among younger Americans while being unpopular with older generations. The rap and hip-hop category has the largest difference in net scores between the two age groups, receiving a net score of +61 among adults under 45 and a -33 among people 45 and older. Punk rock has a similar divide, getting a +34 net score for younger people and -44 for older adults.

Of the 20 genres asked about, there are none that younger Americans are more likely to dislike or hate than like or love. Among Americans 45 and older, the following also get negative net scores, along with punk rock and rap/hip hop: new age music (-15), alternative/indie (-8), world music (-5), Latin (-3), and dance/electronic music (-1).

The differences in music preferences for young and old adults are even clearer in Americans' favorite genres of music. In the poll, people who love more than one genre were asked to choose their favorite among the genres they love. People who don't love any genres and like several chose their favorite from their most-liked list. While one in five Americans (20%) say classic rock is their favorite genre, that is 29% for Americans 45 and older but just 9% for younger adults. The No. 2 genre for older adults is country (16%) Younger adults are more evenly split in their choices of favorite genre, with 13% choosing rap and hip-hop — more than any other genre — and 10% selecting runner-up pop.

Many Americans say they like music that they believe reflects their life. Among people who say classic rock is their favorite genre, 79% also say it is a genre that reflects their life. For people whose favorite genre is country music, 79% say it's a genre that reflects their life.

Younger adults are more likely to cite rap and hip-hop music as a favorite, and are much more likely than older adults (26% vs. 7%) to say it is a genre of music that most reflects their life.

Older adults are more likely than younger adults to say classic rock (46% vs. 22%) or country music (33% vs. 19%) reflects their life.

In addition to their taste in genres, older and younger American adults also differ in how they view the broader impact of each genre.

Younger American adults (40%) are more likely than older adults (31%) to say rap and hip-hop is a genre that is impactful on American culture. Older adults are more likely to choose country music (41%) as a culturally impactful genre, compared to 30% of younger adults.

Additionally, 45% of older Americans think that country music is most representative of America today, compared to 25% of younger Americans. Younger Americans are more likely to choose rap and hip-hop as the genre that is most representative of the country today.

This year marked the 50th anniversary of hip-hop — which led Billboard to create a list of the people they consider to be the greatest rappers of all time. YouGov asked Americans to share their opinions about the music of the top 20 artists included on the list. While Billboard named Jay-Z the top rapper of all time, stating that "there are simply none who can match his entire career," there are other performers whose music Americans like even more than his.

Americans and people who "love" or "like" rap/hip-hop music have a net positive view of music from Snoop Dogg (+25 vs. +74), Eminem (+25 vs. +64), Kendrick Lamar (+24 vs. +55), LL Cool J (+23 vs. +62), Ice Cube (+22 vs. +68), and Drake (+20 vs. +61). For Americans who love or like rap/hip-hop, Tupac (+70) and 50 Cent (+63) are also top performers.

— Hoang Nguyen, Carl Bialik, and Taylor Orth contributed to this article

Related: Americans believe that rap and hip-hop best represent today’s America

See the toplines and crosstabs for this YouGov poll conducted April 28 - May 2, 2023

Methodology: This poll was conducted online on April 28 - May 2, 2023 among 1,000 U.S. adult citizens. Respondents were selected from YouGov’s opt-in panel using sample matching. A random sample (stratified by gender, age, race, education, geographic region, and voter registration) was selected from the 2019 American Community Survey. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race, education, 2020 election turnout and presidential vote, baseline party identification, and current voter registration status. Demographic weighting targets come from the 2019 American Community Survey. Baseline party identification is the respondent’s most recent answer given prior to March 15, 2022, and is weighted to the estimated distribution at that time (33% Democratic, 28% Republican). The margin of error for the overall sample is approximately 3%.

Image: Adobe Stock (master1305)