Mathematics Faculty Articles

America’s Idol? How the Contestant Most Voted for Doesn’t Always Win

Jason Gershman, Nova Southeastern University


The reality television show American Idol has some biases which display themselves in data charts and curves of contestants’ telephone voting patterns. Some of the biases examined include issues of geography and performance order. This paper shows that the format of the show leads to biases in favor of contestants who are from, and have large fan bases in, certain parts of the country. Another major flaw is a bias in favor of contestants who sing later in the show. I show that the order the contestants sing in is not random chance but instead carefully chosen by the producers. Using freely available data, these biases are exposed and ways to correct for them are explored.