Thursday 11 March 2010

Studying Oscar

I'm now rather curious whether the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences could ever be convinced to release ballot data from the period in the 1930s-early 1940s when they last ran the preferential ballot. I'd be pretty surprised if they'd be willing to release anything from the current period, but it's been now seventy years since these votes; it's hard to imagine that anybody would still be alive to pine over how far behind he really was in the 1941 Best Picture running.

A quick flip through the academic literature shows some work on the Oscars, but nothing using ballot paper data.

Iain Pardoe finds that data on nominations in other categories and wins in other awards predicts about three quarters of best picture picks.

William Gehrlein and Hemant Kher provide an excellent overview of the Oscar nomination and selection procedures ca 2004: a form of preferential ballot was used in the selection of nominees, followed by plurality vote among nominees. So there exists preference ordering data even in the plurality system! They work through the mechanics of the system with hypothetical preference orderings, and I'd guessed they'd have used real data if it were available.

Oscar: if the ballots still exist, releasing the data with a 70 year moving wall would be very very cool. I can't see it hurting anybody's feelings or causing problems in getting people to fill in ballots today. If anybody knows anybody at the Academy....

Some things I'm curious about:
  • In how many years do Condorcet Winners exist?
  • What fraction of Condorcet Winners are selected?
  • What are the sizes of minor cycles within overall preference orderings?
  • How big are problems of ballot drop-off (do all voters rank all films or only their favourites?
  • Assuming truthful preference revelation, in how many cases would an alternative voting mechanism have yielded different results?
  • Which voting mechanism would yield results viewed as "best" by retrospective evaluations of film quality?

Previously: all Oscar voting systems subject to manipulation; Social Choice and the Oscars.

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