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In defense of the Preferential ballot

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  • ETPhoneHome
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    Having seen how close the poll is on the recent article about dropping the preferential ballot for Best Picture (54-46% at the time of this writing), and after a quick forum search having found no thread for it, I want to hear the reasons behind people voting one way or the other about this. For me, I think the Oscars’ voting system is the most effective of all the film awards.

    For nominations, I personally prefer the sliding scale to the straight 10, because certain years have more strong contenders than others and I think the system should accommodate that. This is by no means an original opinion of course, but it is nonetheless the justification I have.

    More importantly, its use in the selection of the winner is crucial. I think that with up to 10 nominees in contention, having a film be able to theoretically win with only 10.1% of the vote would be ridiculous. I know that would be highly unlikely of course, because every year 2-3 films inevitably rise to the top as the most likely contenders, but what the preferential ballot does offer is the opportunity for voters to go off of the beaten path and vote for a film that pundits think has little chance, if it is really their favourite.

    For example, if a voter wanted to vote for Hell or High Water this year, and the preferential system was not in place, they would likely think they would be wasting their vote if they knew the general consensus. They would have a preference between the La La Land and Moonlight frontrunners, and would want to express that, so Hell or High Water’s long odds become even longer. With the preferential system in place, they rank one of the two frontrunners in the second position, and still give their favourite a fighting chance. Seems like the best of both worlds.

    I’ve heard conflicting analysis of how this affects the voting, with some saying it helps films that are liked by many but not necessarily loved, and others saying it helps films that are loved by few and not hated by others. I think the truth is that it really doesn’t have any more impact than the first-past-the-post system because it’s not like people who ranked La La Land and Moonlight 1,2 actually had their second choice come into play. What really matters is what the people who pick Fences, Hacksaw Ridge, Hell or High Water, etc. liked better of the two frontrunners and that happened to be Moonlight this year.

    I would love to know what other people think about its effectiveness and impact. Let’s have some debate!

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    Roney Moore
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    #1202028694

    I don’t like the idea of ”Searching for the product that no one hates” when judging art but it’s not like AMPAS is the perfect sample that has highly original members that would go out of their way to pick inspiring winners otherwise. In close years that this system had its say; ’13,’15,’16; they happened to agree with the critical consensus(for better or worse)

    I’m not a big fan but I can see why they’re doing that to prevent controversial choices that can bite their ass in the future. It also subtly pushes everyone to watch more BP nominees instead of just falling in love with one and sticking with it till the bitter end.

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    Sagand
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    I do have some problems with the preferential ballot. (I have way more problems with 5-10 nominating system, but I’ll leave that for another time.) I’ll not be using film names as the system should be judged by how well it represents the views of the voters, not the results. (I like the preferential ballot as it let Moonlight win or I hate it as La La Land lost is bad argument.)

    Take two voters:
    One loved Film A and hated Film B
    1. Film A

    9. Film B

    Another didn’t like either:

    8. Film B
    9. Film A

    From those two voters in the final round it ends up one vote for each film, those two votes shouldn’t count equally in my mind.

    What is clear is voters don’t understand how it works, if they think it is a weighted ballot (as I’m sure many do). They could try to vote tactically and rank the film that is the favourite last in order to help their top choice. This is not how the ballot works, but could have the unintended consequence of voters helping a film they like less over a film they like more. A simple one vote to win doesn’t have this possibility.

    Lastly I don’t think love/hate films should be penalised. Given the choice between hating the winners some years and loving them others or quietly respecting the winner every year, personally I’d choose the former. I’d like to see different styles of film win, maybe a comedy that actually makes you laugh, or a sci-fi, or a horror film, or an animated film (or even a musical). These are obviously genres that stood virtually no chance in the plurality voting system (in the right set of circumstances they could have got 30%) but with the preferential system getting to 50% would be impossible.

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    ETPhoneHome
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    #1202028753

    I do have some problems with the preferential ballot. (I have way more problems with 5-10 nominating system, but I’ll leave that for another time.) I’ll not be using film names as the system should be judged by how well it represents the views of the voters, not the results. (I like the preferential ballot as it let Moonlight win or I hate it as La La Land lost is bad argument.)

    Take two voters:
    One loved Film A and hated Film B
    1. Film A

    9. Film B

    Another didn’t like either:

    8. Film B
    9. Film A

    From those two voters in the final round it ends up one vote for each film, those two votes shouldn’t count equally in my mind.

    What is clear is voters don’t understand how it works, if they think it is a weighted ballot (as I’m sure many do). They could try to vote tactically and rank the film that is the favourite last in order to help their top choice. This is not how the ballot works, but could have the unintended consequence of voters helping a film they like less over a film they like more. A simple one vote to win doesn’t have this possibility.

    Lastly I don’t think love/hate films should be penalised. Given the choice between hating the winners some years and loving them others or quietly respecting the winner every year, personally I’d choose the former. I’d like to see different styles of film win, maybe a comedy that actually makes you laugh, or a sci-fi, or a horror film, or an animated film (or even a musical). These are obviously genres that stood virtually no chance in the plurality voting system (in the right set of circumstances they could have got 30%) but with the preferential system getting to 50% would be impossible.

    I fully agree that not using specific films to judge the system is essential. An unfavourable result for one’s favourite film is often what motivates people to analyze it, and I definitely don’t want to do that, especially since I was in a position to be happy about either result this year. With that said, in the example you listed, it would be nigh on impossible for the second voter’s ballot to count assuming film A and B were the top films. Their ballots definitely don’t count equally, because one ballot is supporting seven different films before getting to film B. There’s a good chance that a winner will be decided in the 6th round at the very latest, and at that point the winner will still be one of the contenders that was in the top 3 in the first round, which the first voter supported.

    To the other point, I really don’t think that the preferential system prevents genre films from winning or being nominated, as much as the academy’s overall tastes. As Roney Moore pointed out, the academy doesn’t really care about supporting a wide variety of films. If a film is going to win best picture, chances are it doesn’t need the preferential system to bring it over the requisite number of votes. In the nominations, the system really only helps films that have little chance of winning overall to get into the lineup.

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    Sagand
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    With that said, in the example you listed, it would be nigh on impossible for the second voter’s ballot to count assuming film A and B were the top films. Their ballots definitely don’t count equally, because one ballot is supporting seven different films before getting to film B. There’s a good chance that a winner will be decided in the 6th round at the very latest, and at that point the winner will still be one of the contenders that was in the top 3 in the first round, which the first voter supported.

    It think it’s fairly unlikely the winner is ever decided before the final round. (For it to be decided before that the margin of victory would have to be larger than third place finisher.)

    In the final round (Film A Vs Film B) those two votes definitely count the same. (Obviously Film B needed number 1 votes to get to the final round, but it could be eighth place votes that take it to victory.)

    To the other point, I really don’t think that the preferential system prevents genre films from winning or being nominated, as much as the academy’s overall tastes. As Roney Moore pointed out, the academy doesn’t really care about supporting a wide variety of films. If a film is going to win best picture, chances are it doesn’t need the preferential system to bring it over the requisite number of votes. In the nominations, the system really only helps films that have little chance of winning overall to get into the lineup.

    I was talking about winning overall. (The nominating process would be wrong to be called preferential) Your argument seems to be that the preferential ballot doesn’t make any difference, so why does it matter if we keep it?

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    Teridax
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    #1202028804

    What especially bothers me about the preferential ballot is that it only applies to one category, Best Picture.

    Either make ALL of the other categories preferential, or have them ALL be a plurality vote, for fairness sake. Personally, I would rather the latter be the case.

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    chismg10
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    #1202028820

    The preferential voting doesn’t make much of a difference even in a very close race, if the second place has strong support. Fair Vote is the champion of this for political voting, and here are examples for oscars 2015:

    https://civinomics.com/polls/124018/results

    https://civinomics.com/polls/123565/results

    https://civinomics.com/polls/123546/results

    Click in top right “Show Me How It Hapened” and it shows the voting for each round

     

     

     

     

     

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    ETPhoneHome
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    #1202028825

    ETPhoneHome wrote:

    To the other point, I really don’t think that the preferential system prevents genre films from winning or being nominated, as much as the academy’s overall tastes. As Roney Moore pointed out, the academy doesn’t really care about supporting a wide variety of films. If a film is going to win best picture, chances are it doesn’t need the preferential system to bring it over the requisite number of votes. In the nominations, the system really only helps films that have little chance of winning overall to get into the lineup.

    I was talking about winning overall. (The nominating process would be wrong to be called preferential) Your argument seems to be that the preferential ballot doesn’t make any difference, so why does it matter if we keep it?

    The system as a whole does make a big difference, just not for the outlier voter like the one in your example. Voters that place the top two placing films as their bottom two will obviously make up such a small percentage of the voting base that I can’t see how the eighth round would ever be the deciding factor. In the event that it was though, it does matter which order it is because that would be the closest year imaginable. Regardless, the value of the system comes more for films that do well not only in number one votes, but also in 2nd 3rd and 4th. That’s what it really is designed to encompass. I will agree that some members may treat it as a weighted ballot and that can cause problems, but it is actually just a gradual limiting of the choices so that by the 6th ballot, they’re picking from a group of 4-5 films, and everyone still has a voice in the decision. It’s far more fair than someone picking a film that came in 9th place in voting and then being totally disregarded.

    What especially bothers me about the preferential ballot is that it only applies to one category, Best Picture.

    Either make ALL of the other categories preferential, or have them ALL be a plurality vote, for fairness sake. Personally, I would rather the latter be the case.

    I would agree with having the preferential ballot in every category if I was convinced that people actually saw every contender in every category. I would be shocked if more than 10% of people who voted for Documentary actually saw all 5 and their choices past number one could be made randomly which would lead to really inconsistent results. Best Picture is one of the few categories where voters are likely to have seen all the films nominated, because in doing so you typically cover a lot of the nominees in various other categories.

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    Honey
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    #1202028850

    Preferential vote would produce the same result as popular vote in the categories with 5 nominees. As long as the popular vote nominee with the most 1st place rank is ranked 1-3 in majority of the ballots it would produce the same results as a popular vote majority of the time.

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    Sagand
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    #1202028851

    The system as a whole does make a big difference, just not for the outlier voter like the one in your example. Voters that place the top two placing films as their bottom two will obviously make up such a small percentage of the voting base that I can’t see how the eighth round would ever be the deciding factor. In the event that it was though, it does matter which order it is because that would be the closest year imaginable. Regardless, the value of the system comes more for films that do well not only in number one votes, but also in 2nd 3rd and 4th. That’s what it really is designed to encompass. I will agree that some members may treat it as a weighted ballot and that can cause problems, but it is actually just a gradual limiting of the choices so that by the 6th ballot, they’re picking from a group of 4-5 films, and everyone still has a voice in the decision. It’s far more fair than someone picking a film that came in 9th place in voting and then being totally disregarded.

    That’s my problem. I used the most extreme example to demonstrate it but one person’s 4th place vote shouldn’t be equal to another persons 1st place vote. Films should have passion behind them and the system should reward that and not be everybody’s compromise choice.

    (The end of the seventh round is where the third place finisher would be eliminated in this case probably Manchester by the Sea so a voter that had this ballot:

    1. Manchester by the Sea
    2. Hidden Figures
    3. Hell or High Water
    4. Hacksaw Ridge
    5. Arrival
    6. Moonlight
    7. Fences
    8. Lion
    9. La La Land

    Up until round seven this ballot had counted towards Manchester, after round seven Manchester was eliminated so it counted towards Moonlight as that was the highest film remaining. By definition this round has the most votes up for grabs. (Third place must of had more votes than fourth ect.))

    I would be happier with a system somewhere in between the preferential and FPTP. I would only eliminate films down to a field of five and then declare the leader at the stage the winner (Getting the most votes in a field of five was the way for 60+ years). Or only give voters three slots to rank films so they can still vote for a ‘no hoper’ and have their votes transferred, but a film doesn’t get the vote if it didn’t have the passion to get into the top three choices.

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    Anonymous
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    #1202028893

    That moonlight shocker was the highlight of my life. There ain’t nothing bout the preferential system to be in defense of. We gotta use it in EVERY category now.

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    Paul Hardister
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    #1202028895

    I think they should go back to 5. They did the 5 to 10 thing to boost ratings by hoping more blockbusters would get in and draw more viewers. That hasn’t worked out.

    As far as preferential, on the one hand, I think it makes Best Picture intriguing vs. boring & predictable because now Director & Picture don’t seem to match as much as they did.

    On the other, you could have a scenario with only 5 movies nominated:
    Movie A: 40%, Movie B 20%, Movie C 16%, Movie D 14%, Movie E 10%. If D & E fans, also liked C enough for their number two, movie C could pass B in votes. Then if B voters picked C as their number 2, C could be pushed to the top and win. Then you have movie that only 16% loved winning Best Picture.

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    Anonymous
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    #1202028896

    Of course they should go back to 5 nominess in BP category! Then it feels so exclusive so prestigous so desired! Oh and let it stay preferential of course. We need that.

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    ETPhoneHome
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    <a
    I would be happier with a system somewhere in between the preferential and FPTP. I would only eliminate films down to a field of five and then declare the leader at the stage the winner (Getting the most votes in a field of five was the way for 60+ years). Or only give voters three slots to rank films so they can still vote for a ‘no hoper’ and have their votes transferred, but a film doesn’t get the vote if it didn’t have the passion to get into the top three choices.

    Honestly, both of the systems you suggested would work for me. I would probably prefer the former, because I do agree that after the 5th round, if a winner weren’t decided then you’re getting into films that people may have disliked and are then voting for them, which I wouldn’t want to happen either. Maybe if this system is reviewed, this would function as a good replacement.

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