The “Worth” of a vote

The blog, Pressing the Flesh has commented on the opinion poll showing that “35% of those responding believe that their vote for American Idol counts as much or MORE than their vote for a U.S. Presidential election. ” According to this blogger, this explains “what’s wrong with the American voting public” and “why you have such incompetent representatives in the White House and Congress.”
I would disagree. This explains that only 1/3 of the American population has some (small) grasp on the concept of percentage contribution to the total. It would seem to me that fewer people would actually vote on American idol than would in a national election, so, if you evaluate your individual voice (vote) as simply one vote in a vast, “virtually” infinite, sea of votes cast, then perhaps one would be left with the sense that their vote is “worth less” (much less) than the votes cast in a much smaller voting population.
Of course, it is the aggregration of the votes that matters, and every vote is required to get to that aggregate figure, but in “most” presidential elections, the marginal benefit of a single vote is miniscule.
For instance, if you are having a local run-off for school board, and you happen to live in a nice, small town, your one vote out of the 30 cast can be significant. It’s 1/30th of all the votes cast, and one can see how important that one vote can be. On the othe hand, in 2004, there were over <a xhref=”” mce_href=””>122 million votes cast </a> which would make one think that their individual vote is worth considerably less than it was in the election for the school board.
In point of fact, the school board candidates probably spend far more time, and would be willing to listen to that one voter for far longer, than any single voter’s ability to talk with any Presidential Candidate.
This is, actually, one of the great paradoxes of voting. The individual vote is essentially worthless, however, as part of the aggregate, contributes to the mass of votes required to achieve a victory.
I welcome your thoughts on this. Do you feel your vote doesn’t count? How does one overcome the sense that my vote, counting for only 1/122,000,000 of the total, carries meaning and weight?


11 thoughts on “The “Worth” of a vote

  1. “35% of those responding….”

    I love how one can make statistics say what you want. Yes, 35% believe their Idol vote counts “as much or MORE.” But 60% believe their presidential vote counts as much or more. But wait! 22% don’t know or didn’t answer… and that my friends, adds up to… (get out your calculators for this one)… 117% of the population.

    That blatant misuse (imho) of reporting the statistics not withstanding, did they consider that with Idol, you can vote as often as you want? With that in mind, I would respond my Idol vote (if I did actually watch or vote) counted more in the general sense, because could be more of them. And unfortunately, in the presidential race, I only get one vote — that you know of. *wink* Which of course, leads back to the prof’s references of having a greater share of the vote.

    Of course, this implies that Idol watchers/voters considered their response when they answered the question.

  2. That was sort of my MAIN point in my post. Do you HONESTLY believe that people watching American Idol are noodling through things like aggregates, the total number of viewers per average episode of AI, and then comparing that to the total number of voters in the 2004 Presidential election, weighting their response accordingly, and in a measured fashion?

    Or is the person in the middle of dinner, picking up the phone, and answering some questions in a knee-jerk fashion?

    I think these statistics are far more telling and far more honest than you might believe them to be.

    And if, by taking this on as a topic for yourself, you’re trying to defend the notion that Americans have good voting habits in this country… well, that’s just sad.

    Or perhaps you’re trying to voice opposition to the notion that the average American knows more about the contestants on American Idol than they do about their own COngressional candidates for the fall, or the potential Presidential candidates for 2008? That’s a poll I’d like to see… “Question 1 – Name me your Congressional Representatives in both the House and Senate.

    “Question 2 – Name me the remaining contestants on American Idol.”

    And if you think a majority of people would come up with more Congressional representatives than they would contestants… well, I’ll gladly take the bet, as well as your money.

    As to TM, I think it’s a bit strong to suggest a “blatent misuse” of reporting the statistics. Tell me what I reported out of that study that wasn’t true?

    As to the 60% who believe that the Presidential election counts as much or more… well, when I went to school, that was still a “D” – and it might feel good to say, “wait… look at the 60% of the questions I answered correctly… why do we have to focus on the 35% I got wrong?”

    You and I both know that the 35% is a problem, and to think otherwise is simply putting blinders on.

  3. Press:

    As for my opinions about voters–I think your inference, from this data set, is simply invalid. You are inferring things from a survey about when the survey itself is suspect, and doesn’t really tell us much of anything.

    Let’s assume, for this discussion, that the survey group for this question consisted only of those people that watch American Idol. Perhaps we can infer something about a group of people that spend their time watching others work hard to succeed. This tells us nothing about the rest of the population. And even then, it doesn’t get to the reasons they believe why their vote does or does not count for more.

    Simply put–simple analysis of simple statistics is simply wrong.

    Perhaps this is where I inject my thought that people shouldn’t encourage people to “go out to vote–it’s your civic duty.” That’s just plain wrong. It’s your civic duty to be an educated voter, and if you refuse to do/be that then it is your civic duty to refrain from voting! But the parties (any of em!) don’t want THAT to happen.

  4. Yes, 35% would be an unacceptable report card grade. However, 17% would merely be poor. The misuse I refer to, is when the statistics can be interpreted either way but are reported in a manner to illustrate your position only, instead of portraying the complete story.

    Again though, as Prof said, the survey is suspect for many reasons. What does “count more” mean? It’s an ambiguous term that can be interpreted various ways. One interpretation is that given that I could vote multiple times in Idol, my vote could “count more.” So, what is the problem with 17%? (Or if you are still insistent, with 35%?)

    Obviously I actually agree with the viewpoint that there is an issue with keeping the nation informed with respect to their government. I just don’t agree this survey is scientifically sound and should be used to support the case. Moreover, I object to the skewed use of the statistics by portraying only one viewpoint and not the complete picture.

  5. Abolish the electoral college and the people might feel their vote counts a little bit more than it does right now.

    Direct Elections – that is what American Idol is.

  6. Here’s what I find disturbing….when I go and vote because it’s my civic duty and a privilege, I find things on my local ballot that totally surprise me and I have to guess on the vote. I hate making uniformed guesses. Is it better to just not vote on all the positions or issues? I blame my freaking newspaper for not clearly stating what is going to be on the ballot and what each candidate believes. At least I don’t blindly follow party lines and just hit one switch like some people I know.

  7. Voting in presidential elections lacks the drama of American Idol, thus the lack of participation and overall interest.

    This Novemeber however, with people having to plunge into their pockets to gas up their SUVs, the war in Iraq going oh so wrong!, and one corruption scandal after another, its quite possible we will see some fireworks at the ballot box. I’m quite looking forward to it. But as another poster on this thread mentioned, the value of our vote is relative. In the end, the electoral college determines who our leaders are and what makes American Idol fun is that it’s truly, one person, one vote.

  8. I would have thought the 2000 Presidential election would have illustrated the importance of individual votes. The final vote count seperated the two candidates by about 200 votes. If 300 more people had gone and voted for Gore the results would have been different.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *