On the preferential voting system

Posted by · 1:43 pm · February 5th, 2010

As Steve Pond says in his round-up of Oscar news and notes today, he is most certainly guilty of “over-considering preferential voting.”  And frankly, someone has to be, because as I mentioned yesterday, this new system could most cetainly shake the perceived two-horse race up something fierce.

Pond has offered his expertise on the matter to USA Today, which has put together a very helpful animated graph that shows a possible scenario (using phantom nominees, mind you).  It demands your attention.

Courtesy: USA Today

→ 25 Comments Tags: | Filed in: Daily

25 responses so far

  • 1 2-05-2010 at 2:14 pm

    billybil said...

    Wow! That is cool! But wouldn’t it even be possible for the original #3 movie to win – depending on how split the initial “bottom” votes are. I do find it difficult to imagine the original #4 film to win but, again, maybe it’s possible.

  • 2 2-05-2010 at 2:58 pm

    Greg said...

    With this helpful chart, it makes it seem incredibly likely, in my opinion, that The Hurt Locker easily walks away with this.
    I feel that Avatar is just too devisive to collect over 3,000 votes. I think Avatar will either grab #1 spots and then mid-range spots on Oscar ballots. The Hurt Locker on the other hand, will land in the top 3 in the majority of ballots and I think squeak out the win.

    Also, I wonder how many voters will not rank the full ten. If they haven’t seen AN EDUCATION for example, won’t they be inclined to just leave it off? I wonder how badly that would skew things.

  • 3 2-05-2010 at 3:02 pm

    Silencio said...

    I still expect Hurt Locker to win. Not many people are going to be giving it a ranking worse than four.

  • 4 2-05-2010 at 3:06 pm

    Jeff said...

    Kris – I think it is worth pointing out that this system is not new. It was used from 1936-1945 in the Best Picture category.

  • 5 2-05-2010 at 3:11 pm

    Craig said...

    If you haven’t seen all ten movies, you really shouldn’t be voting.

  • 6 2-05-2010 at 3:37 pm

    Michael said...

    Jeff – So this system is guilty of the Citizen Kane disaster? Ouch.

  • 7 2-05-2010 at 3:43 pm

    Robert Hamer said...

    @ Craig: Oh, if only voters had that principle…

    @ Michael: Citizen Kane was never going to win, no matter how many nominees there were in 1942.

  • 8 2-05-2010 at 5:28 pm

    Brady said...

    The real people we have to be interested in is the people who put the non-front-runners as number one. What are the people who love “A Serious Man” going to put 2nd, because that is where their vote will go. (Ditto for “An Education”, “Up”, “District 9”, and hopefully “The Blind Side”).

  • 9 2-05-2010 at 7:07 pm

    Kevin said...

    This probably isn’t the most relevant place to post this but I’m just surprised no one else has brought up this point.

    What if this year’s Best Actress race isn’t firmly sewn up yet? Now, don’t groan…just think back to 2007 when Marion Cottilard and Julie Christie were duking it out for the win.

    If I remember correctly:

    Christie took the Globe (drama) and SAG.
    Marion took the Globe (comedy/musical).

    This year, Bullock and Streep fill the same positions as Christie and Marion respectively (and both won the same globe cateogries as well).


    Marion took the BAFTA and then won the Oscar.

    Couple that with the fact that Meryl’s loss at SAG was due, partly at least, to winning last year and that she could soon walk away with the BAFTA (barring Brit-favourite Mulligan nabbing the gong). If this happens, there is a remarkable precedent for Streep pulling off somewhat of an upset (just like Cottilard’s win was seen as a last-minute victory). Arguably, Cottilard won because it was the more transformative, showy performance which, this year, would probably be Meryl’s. Note that I haven’t seen Julie & Julia or The Blind Side but I haven’t heard there are any histrionics (e.g. breakdown scenes) in Bullock’s performance. I just can’t imagine anyone watching Bullock’s performance and deeming it the best female leading performance of the year (although Sandra has handled herself admirably on the publicity circuit the whole season).

  • 10 2-05-2010 at 7:07 pm

    Sean said...

    This system stinks. So people can easily manipulate the system. If they don’t want a movie to win they will bury it at #10. For instance, you love Up in the Air and put it #1 but know The Hurt Locker is stiff competiton so you put it at #10.

  • 11 2-05-2010 at 7:26 pm

    SJG said...

    I don’t understand why everyone thinks this system is so awful. All it means is that the eventual winner is more likely to be a consensus pick that appeals to the tastes of a larger portion of the voters, and not just, as was previously the case, as little as 20% + 1 of the voters.

    Is it really that awful to think that a more broadly appealing movie might walk away with the award, even if it doesn’t have the stamp of approval of the highest of high brows?

    Let’s face it, the only movie on this list that doesn’t even arguably deserve to be there is “Blind Side” and I imagine the likelihood of it actually winning in a surprise upset is extremely slim.

    But what if something like “Up” or “District 9” or “A Serious Man” actually did walk away with the award? Would that REALLY be a travesty? It would be shocking, yes. Obviously it would be an upset.

    But I don’t think any of these movies (Blind Side excluded) can be seriously said to be so undeserving of a win that an upset would invalidate the whole system. Geez.

  • 12 2-05-2010 at 7:29 pm

    Frank Lee said...

    That the SAG nominees and the Oscar acting nominees are almost identicle (19 of 20 are the same) suggests that preferential voting doesn’t necessarily make much of a difference.

  • 13 2-05-2010 at 7:31 pm

    Conor said...

    I don’t think that’s how it works. If “”Up in the Air” didn’t have enough first place votes, it would be crossed off and the UitA voters’ second choice will count. Up in the Air is out of the running, so if The Hurt Locker is a movie one particularly likes, putting it at 10 is basically saying “My favorite or I don’t care anymore.” It allows people’s second picks to matter when their first picks can’t.

  • 14 2-05-2010 at 8:10 pm

    Jeff said...

    Sorry, guys, I have the dates wrong above. The preferential voting system was used in the BP category from 1934-1945 (from “It Happened One Night” to “The Lost Weekend”).


    I suspect this system helped generally well-liked films win over films that were more challenging and divisive, but that’s just my guess.

  • 15 2-05-2010 at 10:17 pm

    The Z said...

    Just go to five nominees and vote for one. It worked for 60+ years – problem solved.

  • 16 2-06-2010 at 12:09 am

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    It’s the best explanation of the system I’ve seen. I’m not sure how crazy the result could be now. Still seems like a two-horse race with a third limping behind.

  • 17 2-06-2010 at 5:34 am

    JJ said...

    Even in some of my faves got left off of Top 10, I’ve actually quite enjoyed this “10” idea.

    And I like the idea of a consensus win than the pre-ordained boring #1 choice; which in recent years, I’ve been disappointed with.

  • 18 2-06-2010 at 6:03 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Like Frank, I have a feeling we may be overthinking this. But hey, what else do we have to do for the next month?

  • 19 2-06-2010 at 6:18 am

    Morgan said...

    I really don’t see where this preferential voting system is so weird, now that I see USA Today’s explanation. What is the problem – the idea that the #2 choice of everyone might be named Best Picture, leaving “no one” with “Aha, I picked the winner” bragging rights?

    I really think that’s the basis of the discomfort with it. The possibility that Oscar watchers may not be able to do a “superior dance,” or that the Harvey Weinsteins may not be able to buy a win.

  • 20 2-06-2010 at 1:39 pm

    Andrew2 said...

    Greg makes a good point. Optional preferential (where you dont have to fill in all 10) can give a different result to normal preferential voting. Still think Avatar will be #1 after the first vote and lose to THL on preferences. IB the only hope for an upset if it gets enough preferences

  • 21 2-06-2010 at 1:40 pm

    Andrew2 said...

    And Frank the preferential system is in the BP not acting categories

  • 22 2-06-2010 at 2:06 pm

    Ryan G said...

    The best way to tally the votes is to assign point values to each ranking: 10 points for #1, 9 points for #2, and so on. Whichever film receives the most points wins.

    It’s not that difficult, Oscar!

    The current preferential voting system gives too much power to ballots with an unpopular #1, and too little power to ballots with a popular #1. In what way is this more fair?

  • 23 2-07-2010 at 9:40 pm

    Idea? said...

    Hey, I got an idea! Why doesn’t everybody just rank it the way they actually feel, rather than trying to game the system. Zoinks! Then you will know that the film that is supposed to win, will actually win. Wow! Can Hollywood be that honest. Nah!

    Okay, then put Avatar at the bottom of the list. James Cameron already won a bunch of Oscars anyway, and he’s alegedly mean to his cast and crew. He’s already won in all the categories he’s nominated in anyway (zzzzz!), he’s speeches are annoying (no more Navi speaking!) and this film doesn’t even deserve to be in the top 10 anyway. I’m with Saturday Night Live. They had a good list of best picture nominees. If Avatar is in, so is Transformers 2!

  • 24 2-07-2010 at 11:34 pm

    Glenn said...

    The second place votes for voters of, say, “Up in the Air” won’t have any use since that movie will not be polling last in round one. But I’d say it’s who they vote for SIXTH or FIFTH that would matter for those people since that’s around the time it’ll be getting eliminated (one would imagine). I think it’s fair to say that “A Serious Man”, “The Blind Side” and “An Education” voters will be the ones most in need of thinking long and hard about their second and third picks since they seem like the likeliest contenders for most likely to get the least #1 votes.

    Er, that probably made no sense to anyone but me, but whatever.

    I actually understand the system now though thanks to that little animation.

  • 25 2-08-2010 at 4:02 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    All this talk of certain ballots having “more power” than others … the bottom line is, each ballot casts a vote for one film only.

    This system merely allows people who prefer one of the long shots in the competition to put it at the top of their ballot, without feeling as if they’re “wasting” their vote. They get to influence the outcome as much as someone who votes for one of the frontrunners in the first place — as such, I don’t see how the system is anything but fair.