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VoteFair American Idol poll

American Idol Season 12 (2013) commentary

Broader patterns

What do the following have in common?

  • The backstage friendship between Candice Glover and Kree Harrison (and earlier, among the top four)
  • Who gets voted off quickly (when the voting starts) if they got through Hollywood week's “group night” without getting along with other members in their group
  • Keith Urban getting ranked at the top of the recent “judges” VoteFair poll (see below)
  • The feud between Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey, and these two getting ranked at the bottom of the recent VoteFair poll
  • Jimmy Iovine's ego getting in the way of working comfortably with others
  • Why Simon Cowell's “X-Factor” show fails to live up to his dreams

They demonstrate how the music industry is shifting.  Now that we, the fans, can vote on who progresses and who gets eliminated, we are able to express our desire for singers who have spirit and soul.  This contrasts with the past when the way to reach the top of the music industry was through aggressive competition (which the X-Factor glorifies).  It matters because aggressive competition undermines a person's spirit and soul.

The fact that Candice Glover won demonstrates that what we want goes beyond just “heartfelt” renditions of songs.  And that we don't want “divas” in the negative sense, with their egos undermining their interpersonal skills.  Ultimately we, the audience, can feel these differences in the songs.  And interpersonal dynamics are at the basis of “connecting”, which is what the judges repeatedly encourage.

What does cooperation and getting along with others have to do with voting?  Everything.  Voting enables everyone to have a voice without yelling.  Voting weighs preferences without personal bias.  Voting resolves conflicts without fighting.  In short, voting is what makes us civilized.  And a key part of civilization is reaching higher levels of artistic acheivement.

May the future soon arrive when we use better voting methods, instead of the primitive voting methods we now use.  That will take us to yet higher levels of acheivement — including a return to real ecomomic prosperity.

For more details about the links between voting fairness and ecomomic prosperity, please read the last chapter of Ending The Hidden Unfairness In U.S. Elections, which will be available soon.

Thank you for voting in this VotFair poll, and for reading the comments here!

Thanks Randy!

Thank you Randy Jackson for your excellent contributions to American Idol.  We'll miss you next season.

Final results commentary

We are grateful to Candice Glover for overcoming adversity — including harsh criticism from a past-season judge — and reaching a level of singing skill that is quite rare, and quite exceptional, and oh so wonderful!  To simply say that Candice will be an inspiration to others is an understatement.

Top 2 commentary

With only two singers, vote splitting cannot happen this week.  Last week there was no evidence of vote splitting causing an unfair result, so the final two really are the most popular (within the limitations of the show's flawed voting method, and within the limits of the songs they were asked to sing last week).  If Kree Harrison were more clearly a Country-music singer, the well-networked Country-music fans would be a more significant factor.  Another factor is that teenage girls might identify with Kree's struggles to deal with losing her parents at an early age.  Yet Candice Glover is the better singer.  This week's not-very-good song choices from Simon Fuller affected both singers, so that did not upset the balance.  Regardless of who wins, both Candice and Kree will have hugely successful singing careers.  And because the winner will have to battle Jimmy Iovine's not-always-wise musical choices, the runner-up might be in a better position to create a better first album.

Judge ranking results

Among the judges, whose opinions do you like to hear?  (That was the stated question, but the results suggest that voters considered other factors too.)  Based on 787 ballots, below are the results of this special poll.  (Details of judge-ranking poll.)

Popularity Choice VoteFair
ranking
score
Traditional
vote count

(for comparison)
First-most popular Keith Urban  Ranking score is 67 for Keith Urban 280 voters marked Keith Urban as their first choice
Second-most popular Jimmy Iovine  Ranking score is 42 for Jimmy Iovine 216 voters marked Jimmy Iovine as their first choice
Third-most popular Randy Jackson  Ranking score is 25 for Randy Jackson 53 voters marked Randy Jackson as their first choice
Fourth-most popular Mariah Carey  Ranking score is 11 for Mariah Carey 70 voters marked Mariah Carey as their first choice
Fifth-most popular Nicki Minaj  Ranking score is 0 for Nicki Minaj 93 voters marked Nicki Minaj as their first choice

 

Top 3 results

The elimination of VoteFair-poll first-ranked Angie Miller was not a significant surprise because many ballots in this poll were cast before the performance night when Candice Glover gave especially great performances, and because presumably Kree Harrison got lots of official votes from Country-music fans who do not vote in this poll.  Fortunately this week we finally got to see Angie Miller rock out when she wasn't at the piano.  And fortunately some lousy song choices from Jimmy Iovine and the producers didn't hurt Kree Harrison.  As another factor affecting the results, Jimmy Iovine chose an Elton John song for Angie Miller without realizing that she needed more than a few days to learn to simultaneously play the piano and sing the song he picked (on top of visiting her home town and learning two other songs).

Top 3 commentary

It's a tough choice again this week.  And some odd results are possible because runoff voting, which this show uses, can produce unfair results — because it mistakenly assumes that the choice with the fewest first-choice votes is least popular.

Probably Candice Glover will get more of the votes that previously went to Amber Holcomb, with most of Amber's remaining votes going to Kree Harrison.  Because this show uses not-always-fair runoff voting, this vote shift could boost Candice Glover into the finale even though she was in the bottom two last week.  Based on the VoteFair poll, Candice Glover is more popular than Kree Harrison, but remember that, unlike the official voting, this poll does not allow duplicate votes, and (as said many times) it is impossible for any poll to duplicate the demographics of the official voting.

Based on her ranking at the top of the VoteFair poll more weeks than any other singer, Angie Miller is the most likely singer to be in the finale.  Yet Kree Harrison was at the top for two weeks, and Candice Glover was at the top for two weeks.

This week the judges and producer will choose the songs.  Probably Angie Miller will be asked to sing her original song, and if she duplicates her earlier performance of it, she will get into the finale and have a good chance of winning.  Angie being in the finale is not a sure thing because the other two singers are close enough in popularity that there is no room for any weak performances.

As a final reminder, if extra Country-music fans get inspired to vote for Kree Holcomb, then Kree is likely to be in the finale.

Rank the judges!

For the final two weeks you also get to indicate your order of preference for the judges: Jimmy Iovine, Keith Urban, Nicki Minaj, Randy Jackson, and Mariah Carey.  This is not about who you agree with, but rather how much you enjoy listening to what each judge has to say.  Your lowest-ranked choice should be the judge you wouldn't mind not seeing next season.  If you don't want to participate in this ranking, you can leave them ranked at the same level, and that means you are leaving it up to the other voters to determine the results.

Top 4 commentary, second week

Here we go for another week with the same top 4.  This gives us more time to decide who really deserves to go home next week.  With all four singers being incredibly talented, it's a tough choice.

Based on the poll results here, Amber Holcomb may have gotten the fewest official votes, and because the show had an extra week built into its schedule the producers decided to give voters another chance to “get it right.”  Plus, the show doesn't want the voters to again be accused of racial prejudice.

As explained in the Top 6 commentary section below, the bias is not racial.  The bias is in favor of singers who have entertaining personalities.  Angie Miller seems to have the most entertaining personality.  Amber Holcomb's personality is becoming more interesting, but there is still a bias from when she showed less personality.  Candice Glover's personality has been undermined by being sick on this week's performance night and by her toe being in pain in a previous week, and that has hurt her popularity.  As explained many times in this commentary, the winner doesn't simply need to be the best singer.  The winner needs to be someone who lots of people want to see perform at a concert, and personality is a very important part of making a concert fun.

Next week we get another chance to see who is the most fun!  May the “funnest” of next week's superb performances help to decide who should win.

The greediest voters this week

This week's greediest U.S. voters (whose multiple votes were removed) were in: Torrance California, Denton Texas, Fort Bragg North Carolina, Sammamish Washington, and Miami Florida.

Top 4 commentary

Based on the VoteFair poll results, Amber Holcomb is the most vulnerable.  She and Candice Glover are superb singers, but they lack the entertaining personality of Angie MillerKree Harrison is difficult to categorize, and some people appreciate her personality while others aren't drawn to her, so her popularity goes up and down depending on her performance and song choice (such as being more strongly appreciated by Country-music fans when she sings a song in a Country-music style).

Next week's results are very difficult to predict.  Mostly it will come down to their song choices and their performances.  Whoever has the weakest performances will be the most vulnerable, regardless of who that is.

A related factor is that excessively high-heeled shoes seem to distract Angie, Kree, and (especially) Candice from being able to express the music through dance-like moves.  And in Angie's case playing the piano allows her to express the music through her movements at the piano, which distracts her from posing for the camera (or posing for a wind machine, or posing on a pedestal without falling off).  Whoever can immerse themselves in feeling the music, and un-self-consciously expressing the music through (unconstrained) movements, is more likely to sing with the passion that the judges want.

Top 5 results

No surprise that Janelle Arthur was eliminated.  Kree Harrison was in the bottom two, which suggests that Country-music fans were splitting their votes between her and Janelle Arthur — which will not happen next week, so that will help Kree Harrison.

This week's greediest voters

This week's greediest voters (whose multiple votes were removed) were in San Jose, California, and Selangor, Malaysia, and Fairfield, California.  Also eliminated were votes from outside the United States, especially from Canada and the Philipines.  Why are votes from outside the U.S. removed?  Non-US votes are not allowed in the official voting, so they are not allowed here.

Lazaro's delayed elimination demonstrates what happens in politics

The delayed elimination of Lazaro Arbos demonstrates why money has an excessive influence in politics.

When a disliked money-backed politician runs for election in a primary election, and there are two more-popular (reform-minded) candidates also competing for that party's nomination, the splitting of votes makes it easy for the disliked politician to win.  This unfairness happens because the voters can only mark a single candidate on their ballot, and because the majority of voters are tricked into splitting their votes between the two better candidates.  That vote splitting lowers the number of votes that it takes to win.  The disliked politician gets lots of expensive advertising, and that advertising advantage is enough to give that candidate the few extra percentage of votes that it takes to win.  The win is not because a majority of voters prefer the winner.  The win occurs because the disliked politician receives a few more votes than either (but not both combined) of the better candidates.  Expressed another way, the candidate wins with the most votes, but not with the majority of votes.

If you're thinking that you seldom see any meaningful competitors in a primary election when a disliked candidate runs for re-election, you're right.  The party's biggest campaign contributors (which, as proven at www.OpenSecrets.org, are basically the same people for both parties) control the nomination process, so they do not allow any real competition in the primary election.

If somehow a popular reform-minded candidate gets signed up to appear on the primary ballot, money quietly appears to support yet another reform-minded candidate.  The result is vote splitting.  Advertising (which is no longer controlled by the candidates themselves) influences some voters to shift votes away from the first reform-minded candidate to the quietly-money-backed candidate.  That shift produces a balance between the two reform-minded candidates, and that balance reduces the number of votes needed for the disliked candidate to win.  If the second reform-minded candidate gets too popular (as happened with Howard Dean in the 2004 Democratic presidential primary when he was backed as a spoiler to defeat reform-minded John Edwards), the financial backers can use their control of mainstream media to spin a story to undermine the too-popular reform-minded candidate.  Although the term “spoiler” candidate is often used, that term is misleading because it's the vote-counting method, not the addition of another candidate, that is the source of unfairness.

If this explanation seems to imply some kind of “conspiracy”, that's not what's going on.  What's going on is that people with lots of money can, and do, hire people who understand the mathematics of voting.  And the hired experts know how to take advantage of the fact that few voters bother to “do the math” behind vote splitting.  Most of the biggest campaign contributors don't themselves understand the mathematics of vote splitting.

How can this election unfairness be stopped?  Simple.  Whenever you are in a group of people who is voting on something, maybe even just choosing where to eat, make sure you do not use the flawed voting method that limits each person to indicating their preference for just one choice.  In the simplest of cases, allow each voter to approve of as many choices as they like, and choose the choice with the most such “approval” votes.  For more important voting situations, use the free VoteFair ranking service here at VoteFair.org.  In other words, educate others that much better vote-counting methods are available.

Getting back to the American Idol situation, a majority (more than half) of the voters were casting votes for females.  But with five females and only two or three males, the splitting of votes among the females made it easy for the supporters of Lazaro Arbos to give him more votes than some of the females, which is why he was not always in the bottom two or three.  If his singing kept improving, he might have stayed in the competition even longer.  But, as with politicians, when the gap between the “good” and the not-so-good grows too big, even vote splitting can't save the not-so-good choice.

Top 6 commentary

Update: This week's performances from Candice Glover and Amber Holcomb elevated their first-choice ranking to the extent that they are less vulnerable.  Keith Urban's comment that he expects Kree Harrison to make it to the Grand Ole Opry, combined with Kree's revealing that she loves rodeos, may shift the votes of Country-music fans to her, which makes Janelle Arthur quite vulnerable this week.  Lazaro Arbos gave such bad performances this week that if he doesn't go home this week, then he is likely to go home next week, because abandoning the obviously weakest singer usually occurs when a dramatically better singer ends up with the fewest votes.  If needed, the judges would be wise to save Candice Glover or Amber Holcomb or Angie Miller or Kree Harrison.  At this point Kree Harrison or Amber Holcomb look like they could be the winner because they are likely to get the votes of people who are now voting for Candice Glover and Janelle Arthur, who are likely to get eliminated sooner.  Under these conditions of there being four superb singers of the same gender and the show using first-choice-only voting, the results are especially difficult to predict.

Most people would be surprised that Lazaro Arbos was in the top three.  Yet remember that now there is vote splitting among the five females and vote concentration on a single male.  As explained previously, this makes the weakest female, Amber Holcomb, the most vulnerable for elimination.

The fact that Janelle Arthur was in the bottom two means that Country-music fans were assuming that other Country-music fans were giving her plenty of votes.  Next week they are not likely to make the same mistake.  Yet getting so close to being eliminated early, when she is a possible winner, once again reveals the unfairness of using first-choice-only votes.  And it reveals the importance of continuing to announce more of the ranking than the show usually reveals.

This close call for Janelle Arthur also clarifies why using the Judge's save too early, as Randy Jackson wisely avoids, is so important.  It needs to be available when it's really needed, as it would have been if Janelle had received the fewest votes this past week.

Amber Holcomb and Candice Glover are now the most vulnerable.  Do either of them deserve the Judge's save next week?  Candice yes, but Amber no.  Based on the first-choice votes cast in this VoteFair poll, neither of them has a chance of winning.  Yet saving Candice would remind viewers that this is a singing competition, and would deservedly help Candice's singing career.

The most likely winner is either Janelle Arthur or Angie Miller or Kree Harrison.

Is this a racial bias?  No, it's a bias in favor of entertaining personalities and in favor of at-least-somewhat-dance-like movements, which are important for selling concert tickets.  (Bobbing up and down, as Candice does, is movement, but not dance-like.)  Recall that two seasons ago this same bias was against a white woman, Pia Toscano.

Top 7 results

No surprise that Burnell Taylor was eliminated.  See above for comments about other announced results.

Top 7 commentary

Last week's trio performance by the three males was so bad that now the remaining two are both more vulnerable than all the females, in spite of having an advantage because of vote splitting among the females and vote concentration on the males.

Based on last week's results (after removing ballots from greedy and out-of-country voters), Kree Harrison is currently the most popular.  Her popularity changes enough that this may not be meaningful.

Angie Miller is losing some popularity, probably because of her excessively polished, beauty-contest-like movements.

That makes Janelle Arthur the most likely winner.  The 39% popularity of Country music in one of the Twitter polls reveals that Country-music fans are watching and they are well-networked in their voting.

Yes, Candice Glover is the best singer, but she doesn't have an entertaining personality, and she doesn't have particularly entertaining dance-like moves, and she is overweight, which together probably account for why she has not risen to the top of the VoteFair ranking.  But she may get sweet revenge if her songs become more popular on the radio compared to any of the other contestants.  Remember that the official voting basically measures how many concert tickets each singer will sell, which is quite different from how many people will download their songs and enjoy hearing them sing on the radio.

Top 8 commentary

Next week there will be vote splitting among the 5 females and vote concentration among the 3 males.  This makes the weakest female, Amber Holcomb, the most vulnerable for elimination.

Yet Burnell Taylor and Devin Velez are also vulnerable.  If one of these two males gets eliminated next week, the other male has a chance — because of even greater vote splitting among the females — to last for another two weeks.

Top 9 results

No surprise this week.  Paul Jolley was the most vulnerable contestant.

Interpreting the survey results

A fan of this VotFair survey has suggested that Amber Holcomb may be vulnerable as a “surprise” elimination, so this would be a good time to explain how to interpret the survey results.

In the results summary area, look at the length of the horizontal bars in the (right) column labeled “traditional vote count”.  The length indicates the relative number of “votes” the contestant would get if each VotFair survey participant cast one official vote for their top favorite.  Of course these count comparisons will not match the official results because each viewer gets to cast lots of votes for their favorite.  Yet this information has been quite successful for predicting so-called “surprise” eliminations.

Usually a contestant is not vulnerable unless the “traditional vote count” is close to the counts of the contestants who have the shortest such bars.  On this basis Amber Holcomb is not vulnerable — yet.  Of course that will change in another week or two, after one or two of the most vulnerable contestants — Paul Jolley and Burnell Taylor and Devin Velez (in that order of vulnerability) — have been eliminated.

As always, we'll see what elimination night actually brings.

Top 9 commentary

Update: At 120 ballots cast in this poll, Paul Jolley and Devin Velez are still the most vulnerable.  Yet Burnell Taylor could be a possible “surprise” elimination.  He is the most popular male, and therefore the most likely male who could win (assuming he does not stop improving).  However, it may be too early for the judges to use their single save on him (unless his performance this week is fantastic) because bigger surprises are likely to come (because there are still so many singers).

Least-popular Lazaro Arbos gets lots of first-choice votes, probably because of both his story (stuttering) and having an entertaining personality, so he is safe for at least a few more weeks.

The very early results (with just 12 votes) suggest that Paul Jolley and Devin Velez are the most vulnerable.  This assessment agrees with the official top-10 results.

The show now reveals the official vote-count order!

Finally!  The show is revealing its vote-count “ranking” for most of the singers.  This will help to prevent the most dramatic “surprise” eliminations, which have occurred because voters didn't know which singers needed more votes and which singers were getting more than enough votes.  This concept was explained last year in the section titled Vote splitting is like out-swimming a shark.  (This change is even better than the change that was recommended in that commentary.)

The official “ranking” numbers now appear in the table below, so you can directly compare the VoteFair poll rankings with the official vote counts.  Notice that the VoteFair poll rankings closely match the official vote-count order except that Devin Velez is 5th in the VoteFair poll and 9th in the official vote count, and Lazaro Arbos is 9th in the VoteFair poll and 4th in the official vote count.  This (plus past evidence) suggests that teen voters — who don't strongly participate in the VoteFair poll — are supporting Lazaro Arbos but not Devin Velez, while older-than-teen voters — who more typically participate in the VoteFair poll — have the opposite preference.

Remember that the official vote counts are not popularity rankings!  The singer with the most "single-mark" (official) votes is not necessarily the most popular, and the singer with the fewest such votes is not necessarily the least popular.

Top 10 results

No surprise that Curtis Finch, Jr. was eliminated.  At least it's not a surprise if you are following this commentary and these VoteFair poll results.  (Yes he is a very superb singer, but this contest is about personality too, and simply being nice is not entertaining.)

As a minor point, the VoteFair poll results changed slightly after this week's performances.  Specifically Kree Harrison dropped one place, and Candice Glover moved up one position.

Top 10 commentary

Although overall the males are less popular than the females, the concentration of votes supporting Angie Miller might cause vote-splitting among the remaining females.  Although Janelle Arthur is the least popular female according to this poll, last week's results reveal she is getting the votes of well-networked country-music fans, so she is not vulnerable (and even has a chance of winning the competition).  That means that Amber Holcomb and Candice Glover are the most vulnerable females.

Among the males, Paul Jolley and Curtis Finch, Jr. are the most vulnerable, based on the current poll results.

Thank you for voting here!  Your 1-2-3 votes in this VoteFair poll make it possible to help identify which singers are the most vulnerable, which is sometimes different from which singers are the least popular.

Top 20 results

As predicted, the elimination of so many singers in a single round made it likely that there would be an unfair result at the middle of the ranking.  Fifth-ranked Aubrey Cleland was eliminated, while sixth-ranked Janelle Arthur stayed in the competition.

Also as predicted, Cortez Shaw was eliminated even though, prior to his performance, he was overall ranked above the halfway point.  As explained, he didn't have enough fans willing to vote for him as their first choice.  He did slip down in the VoteFair poll after his performance.  Alas for him, as others have discovered, a single mistake results in a quick elimination.

Now that only one singer will be eliminated each week, it is less likely (for the next few weeks) that a could-win contestant will get eliminated.

Top 20 commentary

This week's elimination of half the contestants in just one round of voting could easily produce very unfair results.  As always, the contestants who get the fewest votes (of the type used on American Idol) are not necessarily the least popular.  And the contestants who get the most such votes are not necessarily the most popular.  Doing the eliminations more slowly, using more rounds, is fairer.

To dramatically increase fairness, this week the judges should be allowed to choose between the two males who are ranked at positions number five and number six (the middle positions), and the same should be done for the females.  This approach could compensate for the possibility of two can't-win contestants (one male and one female) getting into the top 10, and two possible winners getting eliminated.

Update: Apparently the judges will get to do two “wild card” picks.  That will put 12 contestants into the Hollywood rounds, which makes the number of weeks for the show match the number of weeks that are scheduled.

Among the guys, Cortez Shaw is vulnerable as a possible “surprise” elimination.  He is liked, but few people like him enough to rank him as their first choice.

Among the girls, the only ones who appear to be “safe” are Angie Miller and Zoanette Johnson.

These predictions are based on the poll results as of Monday (mid-day) and Tuesday (just after the show started on the West coast), without yet removing duplicates.  As always, remember that the people who vote here do not necessarily have the same preferences as the people who vote officially, and this poll does not match what the official voting does, which is to allow a person to vote many times.

Welcome

Voting is now open!  To get more votes for your favorite, tell other fans of your favorite to vote here.

But remember, only one ballot per person is allowed.  Multiple ballots from the same person will be removed before the official results are calculated.

Season 12 summary table

The asterisks (*) below indicate and the delayed elimination of Lazaro Arbos and the slightly early elimination of Aubrey Cleland.  (The elimination of first-ranked Angie Miller was not a significant surprise because many votes in this poll were cast before the performance night when Candice Glover gave especially great performances, and because Kree Harrison got lots of official votes from Country-music fans who do not vote in this poll.)

For poll results, click on the column headings in this summary table.  The ranking information in parentheses is the official vote-count order that was announced on the show.

Contestant Top 10 females
Top 10 males
Top 10 Top 9 Top 8 Top 7 Top 6 Top 5 Top 4,
first week
Top 4,
second week
Top 3 Top 2 Finale
Candice Glover3 (f)2
(in top 3)
3221
(top 2)
12
(bottom 2)
221Winner
Kree Harrison2 (f)3
(in top 3)
211
(in top 3)
2
(top 2)
3
(bottom 2)
3
(top 2)
332Runner-up
Angie Miller1 (f)1
(in top 3)
133
(in top 3)
321
(top 2)
11 *Out
Amber Holcomb4 (f)4
(in 5th)
4444
(bottom 2)
44
(bottom 2)
4Out
Janelle Arthur6 (f)6
(in 6th)
555
(in bottom 2)
55Out
Lazaro Arbos2 (m)9
(in 4th)
9 *8 *7 *
(in top 3)
6Out
Burnell Taylor3 (m)7
(in 7th)
666Out
Devin Velez1 (m)5
(in 9th)
77Out
Paul Jolley5 (m)8
(in 8th)
8Out
Curtis Finch Jr.4 (m)10Out
Aubrey Cleland5 * (f)Out(on tour
as 11th)
Charlie Askew10 (m)Out(in 12th
place)
Nick Boddington6 (m)Out
Breanna Steer7 (f)Out
Vincent Powell7 (m)Out
Adriana Latonio8 (f)Out
Cortez Shaw8 (m)Out
Tenna Torres9 (f)Out
Elijah Liu9 (m)Out
Zoanette Johnson10 (f)Out

 


 


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