Why Use The Lowest Vote Count To Eliminate?

When I first started watching American Idol in season 2, I used to wonder why it was set up such that you vote for who you like best as opposed to who you want gone.

Recall that season 2 was the one that featured Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard. In my opinion, Clay was so much better than everyone else, that I wondered how any of the other contestants, aside from Ruben (since the judges clearly wanted him to win), got any votes. I didn't realise at the time that one could vote multiple times for multiple contestants. And yes, I eventually realised that there were people who actually thought other contestants were the best.

Now the way I looked at it, I figured it would be better to vote for the contestant one wanted booted off. For if most people from the start wanted Clay to win, then most would be voting for him each round, leaving little votes left to allocate to the other contestants.

This would mean that the weakest performer could easily end up sticking around longer than a better but still relatively average (ie. not in Clay's league) contestant. For the votes split among the mediocre idols would mainly come from friends, family and acquaintances. At least that is how I viewed things at the time. Therefore, if the weakest contestant had a huge family and lots of friends, he/she could manage to outlast several better contestants who might not have so many friends and relatives. (Remember I'm figuring that most people would just vote Clay or Ruben, and I didn't know one could vote multiple times for multiple persons).

So with the above in mind, I thought that it would be better if the voting was such that the one with the highest votes leaves the competition. That would make it less likely for the weaker contestants to survive longer than those better than themselves.

That was back then. I've come to understand things more since. But with the rise of the likes of Antonella Barba and Sanjaya Malaker, who seem so out of place on the show, yet somehow manage to stick around much longer than reason would allow, some are suggesting that the voting rules need to be changed. People are fearing that Sanjaya will ruin the show. So various proposals have been made, such as what I discussed before, to have the contestant with the highest vote count leave the show.

There is a problem with this approach though. It would appear that a lot of people do not get the theory behind the voting set up as it stands. It is in the best interest of the producers to have it the way it is.

Remember that the producers are looking to make the most amount of money that they can. This means that they must seek to maximise the success of the contestant that they give record deals to. Having the public vote for who they like, will further this end. Let me explain.

Voting for the one you favour helps to emotionally bind you to the contestant. It is a psychological matter. Sales books will tell you that as a salesman, you need to get your potential buyer to say yes to a string of questions that lead up to saying yes to the product. It is a way to condition the mind of the buyer into a more receptive mode, and so making it easier for him to say yes to the final and most important question -the one that closes the deal.

Voting for the one you want to win, is not exactly the same, but the concept is somewhat similar. Get you to say yes to the Idol repeatedly, and the more likely you are to buy his record when it comes out. A mental and emotional bond to this Idol is built. So you are now conditioned to buy his/her upcoming record. Had you been voting only for the one you wanted to leave each week, you would not have grown so attached to your favourite, and that could make the difference in whether you buy or don't buy.

Well, that I believe is the theory behind the voting rules as they stand. Any proposal to change the rules, must factor this in.


Ocha said...

I can't understand how some are still on the show. I think maybe it should be, at least until it gets down to the last three, a vote to get rid of them. It is obvious that there are only a couple this year worthy of the title. For me, it is Melinda Doolittle. You may want to visit my blog Meet Melinda Doolittle

Anonymous said...

Hey, you're right of course but I never saw anyone explain it so well before...thanks!

Anonymous said...

Hi. I saw your link to this on dialidol forum. Thanks. You make sense.

Anonymous said...

Ahh yes IdolTheory, there is some logic to your reasoning. Its particularly interesting how you started out with a question and turned around and answered it yourself. (laugh)

But jokes aside, what you said makes sense but arguably that could be the same kind of issues with most democratic processes. You vote for the person you want and you do not vote for the person you do not want. Yes, the emotional strings are very improtant in these type of arenas where gladiators battle to servive the cut.

Who could have believed that Sanjay would have been around so long!! This is what happens in many democratic systems and those who would just for occations like this prefer to forget about the democracy thing and have a dictatorship. Lets not go there.

What is clearly apparent however is that the number of persons that vote has increased greatly this year and this may suggest that fans recognise that they have to make the effort to vote for the singer that they want to win.

Well lets see what happens this year.