The public reacts in waves of shock each week as the American Idol results show eliminates one more contestant. Each week the judges are dumbfounded and social networks, entertainment columns, and blogs are abuzz wondering “how did this happen”? I am not any different from the rest of the viewers when it comes to this reaction. However, there is a pattern that gets my attention and I see it happening to me even though I am aware it exists. The psychology of the vote – what exactly are we voting for or against?
Several weeks back I realized how significantly the judges were affecting my vote and not in the way you might imagine. I wondered how the rest of America was responding to the show and what triggered their voting response. Do the judges affect other voters in the same ways they affect me? I realized I was voting against what the judges did or said when I seriously disagreed with how they were treating the performers, for instance, in the case of Hollie Cavanagh.
Hollie was obviously trying so hard she was hurting herself. It seemed the harder she tried the more the judges grew negative in their opinions of her performances, sometimes giving her conflicting advice, and giving a few too many standing ovations to all the other contestants. It grew increasingly evident that when it was between Hollie or another contestant to be voted off that the judges were shocked when Hollie stayed and the other contestant went home.
I admit, this made me mad. I have fallen in love with Hollie’s innocence and effort. I did exactly what I think many fans of the show may be doing. I retaliated. I voted as many times as I possibly could for Hollie just in case my vote really would help her. As I look closer, I realize much of my voting has been motivated not only by who I thought was giving outstanding performances, but by who I liked and was worried about. Every week it seems the same things might be happening with other voters and this could be affecting the weekly outcome.
Another shocking result that may have been the result of how the voting psychology works is the heartbreaking loss of Colton. How did that happen? I have a theory. Colton’s performances that week really were not the most outstanding and he got some criticism from the judges. However, their criticism seemed relative given the extensive negativism some of the other performers had received. Colton had rarely gotten much of this and with his popularity and talent I think we all full well expected him to survive it. Again, he wasn’t bad that night. So, guess what, he didn’t get much of the emotional or retaliation vote. His fans weren’t that worried about his staying on the show so we didn’t vote non-stop.The judges’ feedback wasn’t so off base that we thought we had to use our power to speak for Colton. There were several others that night who were in danger or who gave outstanding performances and those got our attention. The result, Colton, one of the favorites, left the show. And, when Steven Tyler mouthed that he never saw that coming (meaning he thought Hollie would be leaving instead of Colton), Hollie cried (making me think she knew most people thought it would be her) and it was on. Hollie was getting every vote I had. According to the results and Hollie’s newfound confidence, this wave of emotion may have spread across the fan base.
Sklyar Laine. I wasn’t worried about her – until she fell in the middle of the pack last week with her performance. Mediocrity seems to be the Grim Reaper. Those performers who fall there in no-man’s land appear to be in the most trouble.
The judges are still influencing who stays or goes. It may not be intentional or they may not have complete control of it, but I can’t believe they don’t see their influence on the voting. I can’t believe that the marketing personnel and the producers are not watching the ebb and flow of the voting statistics. They have seen over the years how the emotional pull affects the outcome. They know how an underdog can rise to the top, how the voters react to negativity when we think the judges are overly critical of a contestant, and how likability is crucial to the American public.
We cannot forget this is a television show first.