There are some boundaries

May 22, 2009

I have a whole series of serious posts in draft about recent happenings in global finance, but I couldn’t resist sticking to frivolity for a moment to share these statistics with you.  In the 2008 presidential election, an astonishing 131 million Americans voted, the first time in more than 40 years that the turnout had topped 60% of registered voters.   Compare that to another election of sorts which took place this week, when America voted for their new “American Idol.”  100 million votes were case by text or telephone for this week’s finale, which paired a clean-cut, Christian and primarily accoustic musician from Arkansas (Kris Allen) against a gay goth-esque rocker wearing eye-liner from California (Adam Lambert). It set a record for direct voting for a television show, which is unsurprising as the vote total was insanely high.   To put it in further perspective: approximately the same number of votes were cast for Idol as the 2000 presidential election.

Of course, Idol has three advantages on turning out the numbers: you can vote as many times as you like, you can vote from your couch instead of standing in line at a school or church hall on a cold Tuesday morning in November, and any pre-teen with a cell phone can vote – no need to meet a pesky age requirement. You’d hope that the relative importance of the presidency would count for something in pushing up the totals, but you’d be hoping in vain.

And just in case you’re wondering who won, it was the clean-cut Arkansas hearthrob, despite the fact that there was a nearly universal opinion that the rocker was a better singer and entertainer (not that I spend my time reading about these things, of course). Interestingly, while America made the bold choice to elect a young, black man with relatively little legislative experience to the presidency, they made the conservative choice on American Idol. I’ll leave speculation that the Christian right turned out the vote against the gay idol aside, but as I’ve noted before, electing a gay man or woman is the next big challenge for the US (though I had in mind as president, not as idol). In any case,  it might have been those pre-teens in love with Kris who swung the pendulum in his favour despite his less impressive performance, which to me seems a good rationale not to lower the voting age, and certainly to prevent people from voting for the president by text.


One Response to “There are some boundaries”

  1. Hayley said

    Also interesting to note – as if your theory needed any further support; text votes were for AT&T customers only. AT&T bought out cingular which had it’s primary customer base in the South and the more rural areas of the US….co-inkydink?

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