Tactical Voting Stats

Niall Harrison had posted the statistics table of Hugo nominations online. Let’s take a closer look.

The numbers show clearly how effective the Rabid Puppy campaign — and the assisting Sad Puppy campaign — were. I’ll focus on the short fiction categories which the Rabid/Sad Puppies managed to sweep completely.

Last year, a work in the short fiction categories would need 86 (novella), 69 (novelette) or 43 (short story) nominations to make it onto the shortlist. This time the numbers skyrocketed. In all three short fiction categories, the maximum number of nominations a single work got in 2014 would not be enough to even get on the shortlist in 2015.

That means people were voting very heavily for the same few items. The insane number of nominations the works on the Puppy slates got cannot be explained solely by the increase of nominating ballots. Under normal circumstances, the nominating votes are distributed among hundreds of works, because no two fans have the same favorites. That has obviously changed this year, and the numbers are hard evidence of tactical voting taking place.

Because the number or nominating ballots has changed, it’s best to take a look at the percentages:

  • In 2014, the novella which got the most nominations was included in 16,9% of the nominating ballots. This year, it’s 31,2%.
  • In 2014, the novelette which got the most nominations was included in 16,2% of the nominating ballots. This year, it’s 25,9%.
  • In 2014, the short story which got the most nominations was included in 9,1% of the nominating ballots. This year, it’s 19,6%.

There has been variation over the years, but I took a look at the stats of 2013 and 2012 as well, and this is a very dramatical shift.

Consider: One out of three persons, who nominated in the novella category, nominated the same work. One out of four persons, who nominated in the novelette category, nominated the same work.

These kind of numbers are impossible to come by if everyone nominates only what they like. It’s ridiculous to claim that a Tom Kratman novella, an Arlan Andrews, Sr. novella or one of three John C. Wright novellas would be so popular among the Hugo-nominating fans that they would win by a margin like this. Surely, they are not the most visible, well-known or talked-about thing in contemporary SFF. Four of the five novellas were published by an obscure small press run by Vox Day.

I don’t claim that the stories are bad, necessarily. They can be good, for all that I know, but they cannot be that good. It is becoming clearer and clearer that they got so many nominations, because they were on a slate, and because a huge number of people voted only for the slate. As I said before, gaming the Hugos in the nominations phase by voting tactically is fairly easy, so perhaps we were bound to see this happen.

A number of people have made the counter-argument that this is nothing new and Hugos are gamed behind the scenes all the time. Not being a business insider, it’s hard to tell what truth there is in that. Probably something is constantly going on, because awards are things people like to win. These numbers are something new, though, and something obviously has to be done to minimize the power of slate-voting in the future if Hugo awards are to have any relevance at all.

In case you think I made a mistake with the math or with something else, please comment. Cat paws are clumsy with the keyboard sometimes.

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One thought on “Tactical Voting Stats

  1. Pingback: Burning the Hugo to Save It | The Only Winning Move

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