You have to admit it’s a great argument. P2Ps attract millions of users and logic dictates that at least some of those users are downloading instead of buying. But laying the blame for the recording industry’s woes on the shoulders of P2P networks while overlooking other issues, such as high CD prices and complaints of only one or two good songs on a $16 CD, sometimes sounds like record company spin meant to downplay consumer complaints.

In other words, if the labels didn’t have P2Ps to kick around, what would they blame?

A recent poll commissioned by the Associated Press and Rolling Stone magazine seems to indicate that not all record label problems are caused by illegal downloading. What’s more, the poll indicates that the recording industry’s message that illicit downloading is equivalent to stealing has actually made some progress among consumers.

Of those polled, 80 percent said they considered it stealing to download music for free without the copyright holder’s permission, and 92 percent said they’ve never actually grabbed illicit booty through a P2P network.

However, respondents also had a bone to pick with the labels, with 75 percent saying CDs are too expensive and 58 percent saying music is getting worse.

“Less talented people are able to get a song out there and make a quick million and you never hear from them again,” said 30-year-old Kate Simkins of Cape Cod, Mass.

To be sure, the labels have seen a reduction in CD sales since Napster 1.0 reared its file-trading head. Nielsen Soundscan says 618.9 million CD albums were sold last year. Compare that to the 762.8 million sold in 2001 and you can’t blame the industry for hating P2Ps. Of course, back in 2001 there weren’t legal alternatives to P2P downloading, such as iTunes or the new, legal Napster. While online music sales continue to grow in usage every year, they have yet to account for the decrease in CD sales.

Though the labels have blamed illegal downloading for decreased sales, music consumers have their own opinions about decreased CD sales. According to the poll, 33 percent attributed lower sales to illegal downloading, 29 percent said it was because of competition from other entertainment sources, 21 percent said the quality of music is getting worse, and 13 percent blamed it all on price.

But aside from all the numbers, one figure that really stands out is the industry’s target audience, ranging from 18 to 34 years of age. Half of that demographic blamed the quality of music for the decrease.

Of course, a poll is just that, and there could be another poll next week disputing the figures reported by AP and Rolling Stone. For this particular survey, research company Ipsos based its results on interviews with 1,000 adults, including 963 music listeners. Respondents hailed from every state except Alaska and Hawaii. Ipsos claims a margin for error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.