Monday, April 16, 2012

Strategic Voting (Reality TV Edition)

From Cheap Talk:
The problem in a nutshell is that American Idol voters are deciding whom to eliminate but instead of directly voting for the one they want to eliminate, they are asked to vote for the person they don’t want eliminated.  This creates highly problematic strategic incentives which can easily lead to a strong favorite being eliminated.
 I am sure the producers of American Idol simply thought viewers would vote honestly. But if a question has actual consequences (seemingly no matter how trivial), the answers people give can depend more on the reason for asking a question than the question actually being asked. Also,
Jessica Sanchez was “voted off” and only survived because the judges kept her alive by using their one intervention of the season
If the clear favorite can be saved by the judges, you have less incentive to vote for her, further increasing the element of strategic voting. From what I understand, the judges save is a recent addition to the show which may be why there wasn't as much strategic voting in earlier seasons of the show.


  1. Strategic voting and American Idol has a pretty long history. That was 5 years ago, and the website Vote for the Worst is still up.

  2. Wow. I did not realize that it's been a problem for so long. I guess the problems were apparent even before the judges save was implemented (Sanjaya was 2007 (that long ago??) according to your linked article, and judges save was first implemented in 2009 according to Wikipedia). So much for my "knowledge" of American Idol.

    But that is even stronger evidence in favor of strategic voting than I had initially thought.