Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Trying To Get A Peak Under The Kilt

Here at Special Bets we understand how relying purely on polling data to make betting decisions can be dangerous. There can be, and often are, factors that most polls simply do not capture, and it is at your peril that they are to be ignored.

A perfect example of this kind of behaviour is the market’s current addiction to making The MacDonald Brothers hot favourites to go as soon as the weekly elimination markets open. For three consecutive weeks, and four eliminations, the boys from Ayr have had the shortest odds to get the chop, and yet still they are still happily crooning away. If you had blindly followed the polls this series you would be in a world of pain right now.

Let’s take a look at where the polls have been lacking. The table below shows the Macdonald Brother’s poll of polls ranking, alongside the equivalent data for the contestants that actually formed the bottom acts each week:

Given the judges comments so far this series, we can be almost certain that as soon as The Brothers are forced to sing for survival they will be eliminated before you can say “do you want fries with that?” However, they are benefiting from a base of support that is not showing up in the polls, most likely coming from their status as “The Scottish Act”.

The key question is – how long can this go on for? Unless you think these guys are coming top in the voting each week, and that they will win the whole thing, we have to put some thought into at what point the competition will become too fierce for the boys to rely on the tartan voter.

The table above gives us a couple hints, namely:

1.) Acts that have up to 10.6% support in the polls and sing badly on the night can fall below the tartan vote.
2.) Acts ranked 7th or below can be beaten by the tartan vote, even if they sing well on the night

Are the MacDonald brothers running out of fellow contestants that fit the description above? Certainly, there are four less of them now than there were at the start of the series…

We will update the Poll of Polls later this week and let you know our thoughts




Anonymous maloolaboo said...

Excellent advice Statman. I have to agree that so many punters prefer decisions that are black and white and refuse week after week to recognise that all betting decisions are definitely grey.

What I mean by that is that every act in X Factor has a %age chance of being evicted in any week, and the best estimate of those %ages are reflected in the polls. To say that McDonalds have a 66.6% chance of being eliminated this week, certainly means that they have a 33.3% chance that they will stay. Steaming in on McDonalds to leave week after week has truly cost a few black and white people, some money and it would be foolish to ignore the other Acts who are in danger or the fact that McD’s keep on beating the odds.

Your take on the %ages (sub 10 polled) are exactly right and any of the acts in this group are in danger of getting fewer public votes than McD’s. In my own Forum, I prefer to assess the bottom pollers as a group and apply some logistical interpretation. So far this approach has paid huge dividends over many reality shows. Whilst the McDonalds regularly appear at the bottom of the polls (on average), it is noticeable that from week to week, they do actually poll ABOVE bottom place on several individual polls.

It is interesting that, for example this week, Internet forum (a well respected poll), was polling McDonalds in 4th place of the current 10 acts. A fluke maybe, but when Dig Spy, at the same time, have McDonalds polling in 5th place, one has to conclude that they DO actually have supporters…goodness knows why!.

I have never been a believer in the regional (in this case Scottish) vote for it is to imply that a region/area/country have some physic ability to collaborate every Saturday night and vote en masse for the same regional act. The whole notion of a physic nation is simply preposterous. (If this were the case, Kerry, another Scottish act would still be in the show). McDonalds DO have support and like all the others in X Factor, it is widespread across every country and county of the UK. I am not claiming that they have massive support because an interesting phenomenon occurs when ones favourite act is threatened with elimination and its simply that their supporters vote more often to save them. Acts, not perceived to be under threat are therefore at risk of failing to get sufficient votes to stay clear of the bottom 2. This is an often ignored aspect of the psychology of the eviction process. Poll evidence is therefore grey matter and as you rightly point out, never black or white.

This week yet another factor comes into play involving the deep pocketed McDonald supporters and that is the point at which they realise that McDonalds cannot win the contest and that the time has come to leave the phone on the hook (unless that hook, of course, belongs to their esteemed mentor).

For those expecting a back and white answer in this text… I have been told by a certain five liver that it is a matter of FACT that Eton Road will win X Factor this year.

12:44 AM  
Anonymous Nick Edwards said...

An interesting take to suggest that regional variance has NO effect on voting... Time and time again, Scottish and Irish contestants have done better than original expectations on reality TV shows (see Ray BB4, Sinead Quinn FA1, Michelle McManus PI2, Cameron BB4)...

While Kerry and Nikitta are both Scottish - they aren't so BLATANTLY Scottish as The Macdonald Brothers, who LOOK Scottish, have a NAME that's Scottish and even went so far as to cynically wear KILTS last week... if the Scottish voters are going to place a loyalty vote anywhere it's with them, not Kerry or Nikitta.

I think the evidence is very conclusive that regional voting has an influence.

1:55 AM  
Anonymous maloolaboo said...

The fact that Irish, Scottish etc contestants “do well” in Reality shows has absolutely nothing to do with regional voting. People accented from a particular region, people who have good personalities, people who make us laugh, people for whom we feel empathy or sympathy, all get votes from a large number of people but from a large number of people who are widely dispersed throughout the UK and Ireland. To imply that a Scottish contestant gets the majority (or any number outside the mean) of votes from his/her own region/country denies any group/region/community the notion of free thinking. There is NO community group-think, only preferences for particular personalities/traits/talents that are commonly admired, liked or hated.

Not only is there NO regional capacity to unite in a common vote, but there is also no dispersed capacity for unanimity amongst regional migrants (eg those Scottish people living in Manchester/London etc) to vote en masse for “one of their own”. Polls conducted in diverse regions throughout the UK, will always show (subject to a normal variance from the mean) a diversity of opinion equivalent to the national average, irrespective of the voting subject matter. (Political differences aside).

The “implication” that, for example, the 8.4% of people voting on the Internet Forum, for the MacDonald Brothers, is solely or largely from people who reside in Scotland voting for a Scottish act is patently ridiculous.

The MacDonald Bros personality or lack of, their style of singing, their loyalty to the kilt, their closeness as brothers and many other generally “unseen by the majority” factors is what generates their support and whilst it may be difficult for most of us to fully understand and appreciate all these hidden attributes, it is equally foolish to label them as the “Scottish” vote.

Two other pertinent points need to be addressed here. Firstly, the MacDonalds have become a laughing stock in X Factor and are quite correctly labelled as the poorest act to grace such a show but this in itself invokes two different reactions. One is for the perverse amongst us to vote for them (as per Chico style), in a two-fingered salute to programme makers and the establishment and the other is to recognise that MacDonald Brothers do, in representing Scotland, actually embarrass that nation and are more likely than not to actually lose loyalty votes for that very reason. The second point is that it IS possible to invite a nation/region/ethnic group/etc to vote against someone in a reality show, usually when a direct insult is levelled. Richard’s dissing of Wales, for example was a direct attack on a nation.

Notwithstanding these later points, punters need to accept that the phone/text voters supporting the MacDonald Brothers are as equally likely to be black gay Londoners with ASBO’s, as they are to be the residents of the Isle of Skye, Glasgow or Edinburgh.

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Nick Edwards said...

You're completely incorrect and there are statistics to prove it. I believe the ONLY phone poll type show to reveal the results of various regions is Record Of The Year and without a shadow of a doubt, the proof is in the results to that show.

I remember a year where all 3 of Samantha Mumba, Westlife and Ronan Keating were up in the list. Granted, Westlife and Ronan did well in every region, but in Northern Ireland, I believe all three acts came out as 1st, 2nd and 3rd - whereas in all the other regions the average positions for the 3 acts were much lower.

This has happened every single year in the show.

Similarly, look at Eurovision, which is the same idea on a grander scale. OBVIOUSLY voters feel a certain affiliation to certain areas, regardless of whether or not they like the songs they are seeing on stage. There is huge documented evidence (some done by social scientists at universities) to support this.

I'm not saying that the performance and personalities of the contestants are irrelevant, far from it. But certain areas of the country are far more 'loyal' than others and the Celtic voters are well-known for being so.

I'm sure a statistical study would only prove this fact and I would hypothesise there'd be a confidence percentage somewhere in the 90s that regional voting has an effect on results.

8:21 PM  
Blogger Admin said...

I agree with Nick...

10:06 PM  
Anonymous maloolaboo said...

Heck Statman, even I agree with Nick when the contest is an inter country affair. Any contest that pitches country against country has the intention to invoke patriotism and it is very successful in doing so. Leaving Eurovision, the World Cup, the Olympics aside, we are dealing with a soap powder choice here and whilst there are regional variances, these are not statistically important.

Anecdotal evidence relating to various contests, and we are dealing with Reality shows here, won’t answer this question any more than the fact that my grandmother who lives in London will vote for anyone on any Reality show that has an Irish accent, will contribute to the solution. Misconceptions regarding voting patterns, such as “all of Ireland are saving BB’s Orlaith McAllister from eviction when she outpolled Kemal, do little to hide the real truth from punters. In that particular case and despite the whole Betfair community believing the “irish” hype, the majority of actual votes cast in Northern Ireland (her homeland) were to evict Orlaith!.

Gentlemen, we will have to agree to disagree on the matter but nothing I have ever witnessed in a Reality poll has persuaded me that regional differences in voting are anything other than personal preferences and they are certainly not linked to the location of ones house.

12:35 AM  
Blogger Admin said...

mal, I think that reality polls underepresent regional factors. In BB this year we had a reasonable group of Welsh people. Glyn was the favourite of very few of them. Does that mean there was not a huge outpouring of support from Wales? I don't think it does. The poll just wasn't representative enough.

Special Bets poll watcher Haydyn below had the following to say;

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Nick said...

Well what you say about a Nan in London voting for anyone with an Irish accent is a valid point... there's certain 'types' of people that DO get votes from a great deal of floating voters, just from first impressions and sadly, the normal way these votes go are for:

(a) Male
(b) White
(c) Attractive
(d) With a 'nice' accent... I think there have been polls to suggest that generally speaking accents like Irish are the most popular, and the Scouse accent is the least popular...

If you have all 4 of these, you're guaranteed to do well... As a sad old fan of Fame Academy, I remember being astonished that week in, week out, Malachi stayed in the competition, eventually coming 5th, despite being possibly the blandest performer in the competition out of all 12. He was male, white, Irish and moderately good looking (with the added interest that he had a 'love interest' in the show) and whether it was Irish people or British people keeping him in, his accent will have had something to do with it. The only thing is there's no stats (and there never will be, because people will never genuinely pinpoint why they vote for a certain act) to suggest HOW MUCH the vote is swayed by things like that.

I know for a fact I ALWAYS have a natural affiliation for the underdog - AND I'm a fan of soul music AND the majority of the records in my collection are of female vocalists... as a result, Dionne was by far and away my favourite contestant in this year's X factor. Leona has now taken that place.

(On the flipside of this, because I know WHAT a black female CAN do with their voice, Nikitta is easily my least favourite contestant, because in comparison to Dionne and Leona she's APPALLING, but there we go...)

My point is, (I think), that demographics play a HUGE part in the results of these shows, and anyone who thinks otherwise is being completely blind to obvious psychological issues that we all have when we vote.

7:54 PM  

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