What Impact Do The Judges Have On The Voting?

Simon said in regard to Sanjaya during the top 10 performance show, that it doesn't really matter what they (ie. the judges) say anymore. In the case of Sanjaya, there might be some truth to this. But this raises the question of just what impact do the judges have anyway?

To answer this question, we must first determine the types of voting viewers out there. I submit that there are the following:

1. Die-hard fans who will vote for their favourite contestant each week, regardless of what the judges say, and regardless of how badly their guy/girl performs.

2. Those who vote based on who they think did best that week.

3. Those who want to prove the judges wrong, so vote for the contestants that the judges gave poor reviews for.

4. The VoteForTheWorsters.

If I am leaving out any other category, please post it in the comments.

In the cases of 1 and 4, clearly the judges have no impact. Categories 2 and 3 would be where the judges will have the most impact, though it will be in opposite directions.

Just based on intuition, it would appear that category 2 has by far the largest population. This would be the audience that will vote more in line with how the judges have assessed the contestants.

Now why should what the judges say, affect even these folks? Well the minds of this set of people is more impressionable to the word of authority. The judges are authority figures, and what they say will seem to be true to those who see them in this light, which is the majority of folks. This is simply a matter of psychology.

Have you ever listened to a contestant perform, and you thought they did ok, with some weaknesses here and there, and then when you hear the judges comment on how terrible it was, you start to revise your assessment downwards? Or have you ever been totally unimpressed with a contestant, but hear the judges give raving reviews, not just once, but consistently over time, and then you just start accepting that the contestant must really be good? Even I as a critical viewer sometimes find myself being swayed by what the judges say, until I realise what I'm doing, and do a re-evaluation.

Now to demonstrate just how powerful the words of the judges are, let us take the case of season 2 of American Idol. Here we can see that it was the judges who practically made Ruben the American Idol. Clay Aiken was clearly the superior contestant, and record sales subsequent to the show have proven this. But the judges' consistently high praise of Ruben week after week seems to have skewed the voting in his favour.

Considering the various categories of viewers, it is likely that the impact of the judges will diminish over time, especially if the same judges are used each year. Familiarity breeds contempt, as the saying goes. The votefortheworsters are likely to continue gaining support, taking away from the population more susceptible to being swayed by the judges. However, this population is probably so large, that it is not likely to be reduced enough to significantly affect the impact of the judges anytime soon.

Then again, it might not take that much of a shift from this judge friendly subset of voters to that of the votefortheworsters, for the effects to start being noticed. The reason for this is that, most people in the former group probably only cast a handful of votes at any given time. The latter group however, vote as much as they can, like hundreds or even thousands of times on a given performance show night.

So the conclusion is, the judges do have a significant amount of swaying power, though it has probably been decreasing over the years.

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