The ☒ Factor

In the “finals” of The X Factor, you generally get three or four vaguely passable singers, a lot of dross, and a Jedward of some kind thrown in for comic effect.

In round one, you’ve not properly warmed to any of them. You’re not sure who’s the best. But Jedward are fun, and it’d be a shame if they went out in the first round, right? What I’m saying is that Jedward are likely to get the most votes in the first round. Some other act leaves.

This continues until some time towards the end, when Jedward crash out. It might be because people have had their fun and want a serious competition now, please, but I think John Sergeant-gate taught us that it isn’t always that. No, the thing that stops Jedward is simply that the taking things seriously vote is spread less thinly with each departing act. By the last few weeks, each remaining serious act has more support than the loyal band of novelty supporters.

The point is that even if Jedward are the most popular act in round one, and nobody changes their opinion between then and the grand final, Jedward still lose. That is because The X Factor operates a bastardised “run-off” voting system: excepting when the record company disagrees with the public vote and stages a judges’ vote-based intervention, every round the loser is eliminated until one act has more than 50% of the vote (or in this case until only one remains).

People say the public won’t understand the Alternative Vote system. Alternative Vote is an “instant run-off” system: it’s exactly like the voting in The X Factor, except that to save time, you write down your preferences in week one and ITV remember them and each week, casts your vote for your favourite remaining act. I put it to you that the British public already has a good grasp of run-off voting.