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A Controversial New Poll About American Idol

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A poll about American Idol's Michael Johns and the rest of the American Idol Top 10 shows absolutely nothing worth hearing about. I am writing today so that you may know, polls matter much less than the valuable time that you waste to go there and cast your vote. In the end, they don't change a thing except for perhaps the number of hits on a website's page. All polls really prove is that a particular site might be made up of, or attract a certain type of demographic, thus ensuring the outcome of a poll before it is even announced.

I will assume that most of my readers know what I mean when I say demographics, but bear with me a moment so I can explain it to those who haven't yet had any exposure to marketing or media descriptions. A demographic can be most simply described as a group of people meeting a certain criterion or characteristic. It is used to classify people for statistical purposes and is based on different factors. These factors might include such things as age, gender, location, income, etc. Truth be told, these groups can be broken down into as many different categories as the pollster chooses to break them into. They can even be added together in some cases, if they still meet a likely result.

Most of the things I write about are based solely on my opinion. This particular subject, however, is based more on actual experience. I spent a total of ten years doing market research for any number of national brands. Five of those years were in statistical data analysis, the other five were in sales and management. Where market research holds a valuable place in the marketing field for any brand, in my opinion, not every poll holds that same honored position.

Michael JohnsYou might ask me what's the difference between the two, since both are in essence trying to determine the public's opinion of whatever is the subject of the survey. Depending on the type of study that's being conducted, the differences don't always vary that much. Here's an example:

You're just sitting down to dinner, and that annoying telemarketer calls again to interrupt your meal just to ask your opinion. The survey this time is to find out which color Michael Johns' fans would prefer for his current tour color. The only choice you are given on which to base your decision must be made between orange and blue.

The first question on the survey is, "Which of this year's American Idol Top Ten is your favorite?" Without thinking, you answer, "David Cook," and the researcher politely thanks you for your time and hangs up without asking anything else.

This scenario assumes you didn't already hang up on the market researcher before they got the first question out of their mouth. Why should you care that they are simply doing their job, and your phone number was randomly chosen and dialed by a machine to interrupt your dinner plans? This is your chance to give an opinion to help decide the future direction of a product, and you blew it off.

Instead, you mutter obscenities under your breath, knowing you should have said Michael Johns, but you've just spent the whole day doing what? You guessed it; you were cooking and so that's the first thing that popped into your head. You grumble further lewd epithets, and go back to your slightly chilled dinner. As soon as you gave the wrong answer to the first question the survey was over, and here's the reason why.

You see, in that instant of time, your opinion on orange or blue didn't matter a whit anymore for this study. Like I told you before, we were looking for Michael Johns' fans preferences, and you no longer count to that researcher as a person with a view. You're just an insignificant part of the Cookie clan, disqualified before ever leaving the gate. To my friends out there who are David Cook fans, I mean you no disrespect. I only used Michael's friend in this example, and could just as easily have put another name there, but chose to give mention to Cookie instead.

The type of market research I just described is in no way different from voting on a poll. Can you see yet how a poll might be swayed if you already know the demographics of the people who frequent your brand? How could you know beforehand the outcome of a study by simply knowing your demographics?

Actually, true market research is also the answer to that question. One of the most widely known television rating firms that I'm sure most of you have heard of is Nielsen Media Research. That type of study reflects the numbers of viewers a channel or television program has as its primary audience. Those numbers are also broken down by the same demographics as mentioned above.

That's how marketing firms know what commercials to put next to House or Medium, and which ones are more suited for Saturday morning cartoons. They use the data so they can effectively target the audience who are the most likely to purchase whatever is the product that they're clients are selling, and thus, determine where their advertising dollars will yield the highest results.

Do you think most of the commercials during the Super Bowl game are aimed at pleasing the women? Guess again. Advertisers already know, but for those of us few who are the exception, most of the viewers are men. Believe me my friends, if the polls you see conducted are in any form of the media at all, they know their audience demographics. There are different marketing research firms for every product you can imagine, and they all are after the same thing. They want to know where to aim their clients' product and hit the largest target.

All of these media know within an acceptable margin of error, if you are male or female, what age group you're in, and which way you will likely cast your vote. In a way, they've purposely suckered you in. Whether it's television, or radio, or newspaper, or an online poll at a website… they know who's watching, listening, reading, or clicking the mouse to get there and vote in their poll. You should be able to see by now, how any poll can be weighted to fit their desired result.

American Idol itself did a poll that I found quite interesting. I don't remember verbatim the wording of the question, and I'm not going back to look for it now. My article is based on opinion and therefore doesn't have to be word for word in order for you to get the gist of the question. Essentially, what they wanted to know was which of the "Fallen" Idols that were already gone from the show, did the fans most want to see perform again.

The last time I looked at the poll, Michael Johns was winning that battle virtually uncontested, with his number at 72%. Keep in mind this was a couple of months ago now, so I don't know what the final number was by the end. That huge percentage struck me as pretty substantial, given the fact that there were over a quarter of a million votes already cast by the time I got there to cast mine.

Did it please me to see his numbers that high on any given poll, knowing what I know about polls? Of course it did! You see… the difference this time was that all of these voters were specifically American Idol fans, and had a personal interest in the outcome. This is the type of poll which actually matters. Included were all the rest of the Idols on that list to choose from, and they still chose Michael Johns. Based on this poll, in theory, one could say that seventy-two percent of the people now attending this year's tour are strictly there to see Michael Johns.

Yes, I know there are those who are there to see some other favorite Idol, along with the rest of the talents on the tour. That's exactly the point I'm trying to make about polls and how much water they hold in the real world. Absolutely, without a doubt this poll gave voice to the American public, and out message was heard loud and clear.

But what did it truly accomplish? Did the poll taken by American Idol change the outcome of the show? Did it have any influence on how many songs Michael gets to sing on the tour, or how much time was allotted to his onstage tour performance? Does it mean he gets 72% of that portion of the proceeds from the ticket sales that are used to pay the Idols? After all, seventy-two percent of the people in attendance are there to see Michael, according to the American Idol poll.

No, he didn't win the title, and his set showcases three stadium-worthy performances of songs including Queen's "We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions" medley, his soulful blues arrangement of Dolly Parton's "It's All Wrong, But It's Alright," and his stunning rendition of Aerosmith's "Dream On." His set is just like all of the other Idols, but for the rave reviews he brings in.

The two David's were given additional songs for finishing in second and first place respectively, with David Archuleta performing four songs, and American Idol 2008 – David Cook performing five tunes in his set. Based on the poll numbers, Michael should be onstage 72% of the time, and probably would be if the poll held any sway. Nor do I think he is allowed 72% of the portion of ticket sales paid to all of the Idols while they are on tour. Damn the luck there.

So I guess that would mean over a quarter of a million people wasted their time voting on a poll that didn't change a thing where the show and the tour are concerned. Don't feel bad if you were one of those who voted in that particular poll. I will admit, so was I, and did so more than once.

It may have affected other things that one might not readily notice. Reputable polls are not taken without a good reason, though we may never know what that reason was. Michael's placement onstage is predominantly close to center stage in the group numbers, and he and Carly Smithson (another star talent) take a spotlight duo in U2's "Pride," so there are a couple of things which might have been influenced by his good show in the poll. My guess would be it's mostly because he puts on a good show.

We've talked about the good polls, now let's show the other end of the spectrum. It's still my opinion that polls are the simplest way to draw the unwary fan to a particular site with nothing more in mind but to deliberately stir up a controversy of some kind, most often for publicity. These polls do nothing at all but cause strife between loyal fans that go there to vote. I consider these guys to be the equivalent of the online TMZ or Jerry Springer show.

Here's another example of utter nonsense I've seen in the past on visits to numerous sites. The question asked of the fans was, "Which of the two Davids should have won the title of American Idol?" One such site not only gave the choices of David Cook, and David Archuleta, but also offered a place to put comments on why their David should have won the title.

Curiosity got the better of me and I had to stop in just to take a look. I truly wish I hadn't bothered myself with such ludicrous things as what I found there. Foul language was rampantly flying back and forth between the two opposing factions, with each side questioning the intelligence of the other's view of the story.

Sadly, those who stooped to the lowest of tactics by calling names and pointing fingers in accusation, could not (in their anger) form a proper sentence with which to sling mud, much less spell the word. There were also highly intelligent comments being made by some, but who could find them while desperately trying to dodge the raging filth flying about.

These spiteful few reduced their stature and appeared to be ignorant to all who were there to witness the carnage. They would have been an embarrassment to both the Idols that they were defending. David Cook and David Archuleta take pride in their intelligence, and care about those who would defend them. They would not approve of their fans being dragged into such senseless battles induced by the witless wonder posing the question.

There is no acceptable excuse for that type of behavior, nor is there an excuse by the person conducting the poll to ask such a volatile question. These fans love their Idols and responded in anger to a question that should never have been asked. All of us have felt that seething ball of rage when our Idol was eliminated.

Some of us were more shocked by an unexpected departure than others, so I know exactly what they were feeling. I would warn you not to ask me about it still. But rather than sit here and spew my anger at people I will never meet, with just the touch of a button, I will magically click you away. After all, in cyberspace you're nothing more to me than some words on a screen.

Again, whatever the outcome was of that poll, it changed nothing in the end. Polls conducted without a reasonable expectation to enhance or improve an outcome are baseless and should be ignored by everyone who considers they are foremost a fan. You may not be able to change what you felt rightfully belonged to your Idol's past, but it is your loyalty that will assure their success in the future.

I've decided that there are at least two kinds of polls that are worth anything, and neither of them end with the double L spelling. There's the one in the North that guides our compass, and is of course where Santa Claus lives. Then there's the one in the South, so that Hot Aussies know which way to travel when they take their world tour back down under to show it off to their mates who live there.

Now that you know my thoughts on the value of such meaningless polls, the ones with the double L's, let's have a bit of fun. Why don't we use the question I previously asked in the hypothetical poll? Remember, you must be a Michael Johns' fan to participate or your answer will not count in my poll. Why not, you ask? "Because I said so." See how easy the outcome is to control?

For you Michael Johns fans, here goes:

If you could choose between having Michael Johns tour color be orange or blue, which of those colors would you choose first? Please think before making your choice.

I certify that I am a Michael Johns fan, and my choice of tour color is ORANGE.

OR:

I certify that I am a Michael Johns fan, and my choice of tour color is BLUE.

If you truly are a Michael Johns fan and chose either of the answers above, go back to the beginning of the article, and read the entire thing all over again. It's clear to me that you have missed the point of what I was trying to explain. I would not ask or expect you to participate in a poll that can't change a single thing. In fact, I would suggest quite the opposite. That's why neither answer above is a working link. How's that for controlling the outcome?

Michael's tour color was already chosen, and it is ORANGE in case you didn't know it already. That means we Michael Johns fans should expect seventy-two percent of the audience to be wearing some form of the color orange at each appearance for the remainder of this summer's tour. Right?

My apologies to those of you who wanted the tour to reflect Michael's favorite color, which is of course blue. I guess you could combine the two, and wear something orange with a pair of blue jeans. At least Michael can take solace in the fact that his name at least appears in blue on this page. Click on it to get to his Myspace Music page and add yourself as a friend. (Please look before you click. There are also two links on the page that will take you to each one of the David's Myspace Music pages.)

Michael did not choose his tour color, and wanted to know who chose the color for him. That topic is currently under discussion at Michael Johns Online, and can be found in the forum section. (MJO is his primary fan website). We already know it wasn't anyone at MJO who chose the color for him.

This is one of the funniest topics I've seen in here to date. The link will take you to the main page, where you can join in the fun and add your opinion. The topic can be found under the heading "American Idol Live Tour Summer 2008". When you click on that link, look for the topic, "Michael Johns inquired, 'Who Picked Out My Colors?'" You won't believe some of the reasons and pictures given in explanation.

Add your e-mail if you wish to join the elite group of people who are included on this and literally hundreds of other Michael discussions. You won't be inundated with e-mails about any of the topics, except the ones that you pick to watch. You will only receive e-mail when there is a breaking news update with a link to the story or blog.

Now if you've gotten this far in the article and you're not a Michael Johns fan, but you're guilty of clicking on one of the survey answers above, I won't tell you to go back to the beginning and read the entire thing over again. Just use your white out and delete your response to the previous question directly there on your monitor screen. Your choice wouldn't have mattered anyway, since I already told you the rule is you have to be a Michael Johns fan in order to participate in the first place.

If you are a Michael Johns fan who clicked on one of the answers and had to read the article again, welcome back to the rest of us. Cheers to you, and I'm glad you could join us again. At least we all know how much worth we should put in such insignificant polls as some of those I described. We also know how much our Idol's success is solely dependent on the unending support of his fans. Without question, he has 100% of that demographic.

Only time will tell what success the future holds for The American Idol Top 10 – Class of 2008. I can assure you, some online pollster seeking the uninformed click of a mouse will in no way decide that future. In my opinion those who use polls as their only substance are a complete waste of my time, and I'm sure you have by now come to your own conclusions. However, the time you spend is your own, so do with it what you will. If nothing else, maybe you'll understand a bit more clearly why I so often say with such conviction. Who am I to say?

As always, mine is just one opinion.

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About Ultimat1

  • ariadne

    This is one of the better written articles on polls, fans, and American Idol I’ve seen. Colour me impressed with your logic.

  • http://www.myspace.com/justoneopinion Ultimat1

    Thank you ariadne, I appreciate your comment.

  • Elaine

    HAHA! Making sense from the senseless. So there is an idiot born everyday and an internet idiot born every second. Loved your blog. I’m guilty or at least was. Once I stopped and thought about it I changed my tactics. I only vote on polls that appear to be valid. Good Job!

  • http://www.myspace.com/justoneopinion Ultimat1

    How long did it take before you too figured out online polls are a worthless cause unless the site you visit is reputable? Thanks so much for your comment!

  • Idolfan

    There are two other factors that have biased even your own supposedly cleaner poll by A.I. First, fans have been known to discover polls like this and spam a site to pump up their favorite’s numbers. If someone’s fans don’t find out about a particular poll, they might not go where the poll is to vote. And there have been TONS of these polls since the competition. Only those with a lt of time on their hands will tend to find them all and vote. So this also skews results. Secondly, believe it or not, not all Idol fans keep going to the AI site forever. Many, like me, rarely go there now, instead frequenting the fan site of the favored idol. I only get on there now to watch “Sharp Dressed Man”, which I can’t download and own. Nothing else is bringing me to the site for the endless silly polls that are there. So, the AI poll is also contaminated and not worth the time. Having been to the Idol Tour, I can assure you that 72% of the people are not there primarily for Michael Johns! The screams tell the tale. He got plenty, but there were at least 3 others who got more.

  • http://www.myspace.com/justoneopinion Ultimat1

    You’ve made my point exactly. However, with regard to the poll at AI, it was time limited as are all of their polls and closed down months ago. I’ve never been back.

  • http://americanidollowdown.blogspot.com/ Sherry

    I agree with you – most online polls are worthless. Even the official AI site polls are only interesting in whether or not the ignite a particular person’s fanbase to vote a bunch of times.

    For instance a recent poll asked which former Idol people would like to meet. I think the list included Taylor Hicks, Elliott Yamin, Ace Young, Dannie Noriega and Haley Scarnato.

    At first Haley of all people was leading. Then a couple of days later Taylor took a huge lead with Elliott 2nd. I think Taylor and Elliott fans went out and decidedly put them first.

    It does show fan bases exist at the very least. Same as in the poll with Michael Johns you mention in your article. His fans (including myself) are still not happy with where he finished on the show and want to show they are out there.

  • http://www.myspace.com/justoneopinion Ultimat1

    Thanks Sherry for your comments. Absolutely it proves there are fan bases exist and stand behind their favorite Idol. That’s why I find this poll so interesting. You would think since it emcompassed everyone’s fan base, (for those who’d already gone home), the numbers might have been more evenly spread. I would be interested in seeing what the final number was, but do not know if results of AI polls are ever published. It wouldn’t matter, since it changes nothing (see above) and I wouldn’t know where to look to find them anyway. As mentioned before, I have not been back, nor do I ever intend to go there anymore. :D

  • lavender1960

    Even if you know the poll is useless but it is still bragging rights for the artist or a test for the fanbase to mobilize.

    There was a poll, ehem, on a certain website for a MAJOR music TV station in respect to who was the Artist of the Year, 2006 I believe was the year…

    Well the 2 fan bases of those artists that finished 1 and 2 waged war and it got dirty, made even funnier by the fact that the one artist was a Christian Rock band and one of their fans actually posted the software to use to vote illegally in massive amounts in order that their band could win, well naturally the fans of the other band, whilst scolding the lack of ethics of the fans of a Christian rock band upon this discovery, still used the same program to help their band, it was neck and neck, but the Lord won out, just barely and that band now has in all its articles and promotional material how they were voted Artist of the Year for 2006 [never mind that 99 per cent of people had never heard of this band, and probably still haven’t, far more people would be familiar with the 2nd artist, another 3rd artist, her fan base was strong but clearly didn’t discover the voting software in time ha]

  • http://www.myspace.com/justoneopinion Ultimat1

    Another fascinating example of the unfortunate truth. Thanks for sharing that with us. I hadn’t heard that one before.