All the (great!) talk about Pitchfork’s People’s List is making me think about the idea of a nationally representative poll that asked people about their favorite albums. What would that be like? What would it mean? Is it even a thing we desire? The 12% representation of women in the voter pool for the Pitchfork list is highly problematic, but we wouldn’t necessarily be interested in the results from a true national sample, either. Why would we want to know, again, that most people like the Beatles? What the poll was an attempt to do was to capture the opinions of a particular subpopulation - “Pitchfork readers,” a legitimate subpopulation of interest - that’s hard to define without just getting people to opt-in. A poll of those people that actually reflected the demographics of the readership would be great. But again: is that even something we’re interested in? Do we actually want to know the list of albums most people who read Pitchfork think are the best albums, or are we really interested in seeing what happens when we urge people who read Pitchfork to tell us what their favorite albums are? That seems to be the important thread running through all the commentary I’ve seen: not that the big list is meaningful, but the way the process played out was, with the final tally as an indicator of what happened. (Which is why it’s so nice the website lets you break it down by demographics.) We’re talking about, and seeing, are polling effects, not polling results.
Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that the World Values Survey should really, really, really include a “What’s your favorite album?” question on their next round.