A Pollster’s Dilemma

0808-0712-3117-5831Let me start by saying I love being an AAR pollster. From a personal standpoint, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know, and become friends with, Lee and Cindy, my wonderful fellow pollsters. From a romance-reading perspective, I get to see the characters and books that AAR’s readers like. After all, I don’t see just the results posted on AAR, I know which books land in 20th, 50th, and 100th place in top ten polls. Sadly, I also know which characters will receive no votes other than my own; ah, there’s my dilemma.

When I first volunteered to be a pollster, I made certain that we would be allowed to vote since the polls were one of my favorite parts of AAR from the beginning. Once assured that I could still vote, I hopped onboard.

As a pollster, I know weeks in advance what our polling schedule looks like. Initially, I would fill out my ballots well before each poll began, and would submit it at AAR as soon as polling opened. Lately, like many AAR readers, I’ve been taking my time preparing my ballot; hence, my dilemma.

For ethical reasons, I will never wait until the closing days of voting to submit my own ballot. By the last days, I have a clear sense as to whether the vote will be a landslide for the characters or books I’m responsible for (we divide up responsibility each poll), or more problematically, whether a single vote by me could push one character or book ahead of another.

But even when I vote early, I often know whether my favorites are going to place – if not win. Worse yet, I know when a character or book I plan to vote for may only receive one vote – mine. This happened with the recently completed Heroes, Heroines, and Couples Mini Poll.

I was responsible for tabulating the heroines, and watched carefully the first week as the votes came in. It quickly became clear that only one of the heroines I intended to vote for – Eve Dallas –  was going to end up in the top ten. I began to debate with myself: should I go with the ballot I intended, or should I vote for potential top ten finalists. And don’t get me wrong, I liked a number of the heroines who finished in the top ten, and even more of the heroines who finished in the top 20.

Ultimately, I decided to stick to my guns and vote for the following heroines, who truly are MY favorites:

Eve Dallas, In Death series, JD Robb – 2nd place

Desdemona Carlisle, As You Desire, Connie Brockway – 31st place

Annabel Granger, Match Me If You Can, SEP – 27th place

Molly, This Heart of Mine, SEP – 37th place

Jane, See Jane Score, Rachel Gibson – 168th place

Lilly, Scoundrel, Elizabeth Elliott – 189th place

Desdemona Wainright, Trust Me, JAK – 213th place

Anna Spinelli, Sea Swept, Nora Roberts – 45th place

Lady Emily, Lady Emily series, Tasha Alexander – 240th place

Abbey Shore, Twist, Cindy Holby – 269th place

At the time I voted, there was still a possibility that one of my selections (Annabel Granger) might end up in the top ten. However, as you can see by the final placement of my other votes, there was never really much hope for any of the others, and I knew it. Looking back, a high place vote for some of my lesser – but still much loved – favorites such as Phoebe Sommerville from Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ It Had To Be You, Min Dobbs from Jennifer Cruise’s Bet Me, or Blair Mallory from Linda Howard’s To Die For, would have pushed them into the top ten. It really was that close.

But, I’m convinced that what I did was right. As a pollster, I have an edge in seeing who the near-finishers are. The average reader doesn’t have that advantage. It has made me wonder how other AAR readers prepare their ballots.

How about you, do you vote for characters or books that you love, even if you think no one else will vote for them, or do you vote for lesser favorites that you think might win?

-LinnieGayl AAR

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13 Responses to “A Pollster’s Dilemma”

  1. Tee says:

    It should be a person’s favorites, no matter what, if that’s what the poll is asking. But for those of us who are appear to be out of sync with the crowd, then none of our favorites ever show up or rarely. So, it becomes easy to bypass the mini polls. I still vote the annual poll, but the results are much the same. I don’t have a problem with that, but it seems like a wasted effort when it’s obvious who the winners usually are.

    If you want a poll where you would vote for lesser favorites just to see them place, then the entire survey should be conducted differently. We could nominate our favorites and then vote among the top vote-getters. For instance, if you’re looking for the top 10 couples, ask for nominations. Then take the top 15 or 20 from that and ask everyone once again to vote for their 10 favorites among those.

    Otherwise, if you’re asking for favorites in general, then you’re going to get names all across the board and voters should vote their favorites and not just the ones they think will rouse the most interest. Favorites are favorites.

    But when you’re asking the question about voting for lesser favorites because you think they’ll be getting the most votes, then the poll needs to be looked at with a different set-up.

  2. Margaret says:

    When I vote, I vote for my favourites. I would much rather see a list of the books/characters that didn’t make the to 10.

  3. GamaTST says:

    I also vote my favorites. I’m fairly new to actually voting the polls (I’ve read them for years) and was surprised to see that only one of my votes made it into to the top ten heroines. But it didn’t bother me, I know who I like and I’ll stick by them.

    I am intrigued by the further results you showed here, all the way down to 269th place!! Those results I’d like to see in full just to see where my votes did land! LOL I realize it would be a lot of work though.

    My suggestion for a poll to open things up a bit is one where we would vote for our favorites from single titles, excluding series ie: In Death – Outlander. Not that I didn’t vote for Even and Roarke …… still it would open up a couple of slots at least to only vote on single titles.

    I enjoy the results no matter where my votes land and appreciate the work that goes into the polls.

  4. LeeB. says:

    As one of LinnieGayl’s cohorts in polling, I can very much sympathize with all that she has written. When I see the votes roll in, especially with characters who aren’t as popular, I think to myself, “oh yeah, I loved [him/her/them]! But why don’t people like MY favorites?” ;)

    So far I like the suggestions for possible polls.

  5. GamaTST says:

    As a PS…

    Since Historicals seem to reign in these polls it would also be interesting to see a poll for Contemporaries only, PNR only and maybe Series (with the same reoccurring couples) only.

    Several mini polls …. then combine all the results for the top spots and we could still end up where we are now with this poll. But it would be fun to see the breakdown.

  6. Janet W says:

    I posted a rather silly response, which I gather was eaten by gremlins. Good!

    Just wanted to say I appreciate your dilemma. I hate to think of WONDERFUL titles disappearing, just because I didn’t vote for them :)

  7. Sue S says:

    To me, series heroes/heroines/couples are a very different “animal” from their single-title counterpart. No single title could create the depth and history of Eve Dallas and Roark, which now reaches over thousands of pages (never mind the Outlander couples’!). That should in all honesty be two completely separate categories, since it’s really putting the apples in with the kumquats.

    And everyone should vote for their own favorites — why should it matter if you manage to get one in the top ten? It’s not a test! :D

  8. Katie Mack says:

    I always vote for my favorites, even when I suspect that I’ll be the only person voting for them. I have this eternal optimism that one day a bunch of readers will discover these great books/characters/whatever and will vote for them too.

  9. Cora says:

    I always vote for my favourites as well, even when I know they have next to no chance, since I hardly ever read historicals and contemporaries, romantic suspense and paranormals don’t seem to be as popular here. What is more, I don’t really read the paranormals that are popular here either, e.g. I don’t much care for J.R. Ward or Kresley Cole. I usually know going in that my favourites won’t have much of a chance.

    But I’d rather vote for the books and characters I truly like best than for those I don’t like nearly as much but suspect would have more chances. It seems more honest that way. Plus, I always hope that one of my out-there picks will end up getting a honourable mention and incite some people to check out a book they might otherwise not read.

  10. LinnieGayl says:

    I’m enjoying reading all your comments. Thanks! I just double-checked, and we’re going to be due for updating some mini-polls this spring including the straight contemporaries, chick lit,and romantic suspense.

  11. library addict says:

    I’m sure you were not the only voter who had few, if any, of their favorites show up on the winners list. I think it is important to vote for your genuine favorites, not your favorites among characters you know are super popular. I’m sure many of the heroines and heroes I voted for didn’t crack the top 500, but they are my favorites. Sad to say seemingly mine alone, but cest la vie.

    As much as part of me thinks breaking down books into separate categories could be good, I don’t necessarily think it will solve anything. What’s chick lit to one reader may be viewed as a romance to another reader. While some books are easy to categorize, so many books are difficult to classify. Not to mention the mislabeling that is often done by the publishers…

  12. Claire says:

    I was just thinking what if we took out the most obvious and popular choices and asked who are your next top ten? Like in Wheel of Fortune when they take out r,s,t,l,n and e for the final spin.

  13. Margaret says:

    P>As much as part of me thinks breaking down books into separate categories could be good, I don’t necessarily think it will solve anything.
    ………………………………………………..

    I agree. Contemps are my favourite, but looking over the last contemp mini-poll I know I wouldn’t have any matches there either. I don’t really think there’s anything to solve…the top 10 is about the popular vote. Seeing the entire poll results would be interesting…but I’m sure a huge amont of work would be involved.