The Public Has Decided: Old Town Road Is Country

By Avery Wendell (@awendell98)

Amidst a week of turnover at the Department of Homeland Security and ongoing intrigue over the Mueller Report,  an important question has gripped popular culture; is the song “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X a country song? This metaethical question sprang onto the Twitterscape after Billboard announced that it was removing the song from its country charts as it lacked “elements of today's country music.”

This was met with social media’s usual reticence: celebrities weighed in and “Old Town Road” shot to #1 on Spotify’s USA Chart. The only people seemingly yet to weigh in on this profound question is the general public. Until now.

Civis Analytics asked survey respondents between April 3rd and April 6th whether they were aware of the song and, if so, if they considered it country. The overwhelming response was an emphatic “I don’t know what that is.”


Among 2,418 respondents, 62 percent said they were not even aware of the song, and another 22 percent said they were not sure (which is hard to imagine -- how do you forget that hook? -- but we digress) meaning ~84 percent of the respondents were not sure that they knew what the song was. Among the small cohort that was aware of the song there was a clear consensus; Old Town Road is a country song: 66 percent of respondents said it was.


Using the most modernest machine learning techniques (or a logistic regression with a ridge penalty -- we forget) we searched for variables that might predict responses to this important question. The model came up empty, and a quick look at the crosstabs confirms why. Sixty-six percent  of respondents thought OTR was a country song, including 68 percent of Clinton voters and 66 percent of Trump voters. Sixty-six percent of white respondents, 67 percent of black respondents, and 65 percent of Latinos agreed, as did 68 percent of Democrats, 63 percent of Republicans, and 68 percent of Independents. The only slight variance was in income, but we are willing to bet this is just noise.


So it would appear that Old Country Road’s genre is one of the few non-partisan issues remaining; it's a country song to most men, women, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents.

Avery Wendell (@awendell98) is a senior advisor to Data for Progress.

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