How Dancing with the Stars Voting Works = Why Bristol Palin Could Win Easily

First, let me say the scoring process for Dancing with the Stars (DWTS) is fair. It is honest. It’s just not obvious.

It also is weighted 50pct to judge’s scores and 50pct to popular vote.  Which means the votes of viewers have more impact than the judges scores…. Which is  why Bristol Palin has done so well.  Let me explain.

When I was on the show, my first week I found myself in the bottom two. I was pissed. I had scored triple 7s. Which had me tied with half the other  contestants and ahead of several. Yet there I was sweating bullets.  I survived to dance another week. After wards one of the producers explained to me how the voting works, which in turn completely changed my strategy and approach to the show. Like anything else. It helps to know the rules.

From the DWTS site:

“Each week every couple receives points from the judges and votes from the public. For every couple we work out the share they got of the points given by the judges on the night, and the share they got of the public’s votes on the night and we add these two shares together. The couple with the lowest combined total is eliminated from the show.

For example if couple A, B and C receive 38, 26 and 14 points from the judges, we calculate what share these points represent of the total awarded by the judges on the night. In this case the judges gave 78 points in total, and each couples’ share of 78 points breaks down as follows: 38= 48.72% of78, 26= 33.33% of 78, 14= 17.95% of 78. Let’s suppose that when the public votes are tallied, each couple has the following shares: A= 20%, B=40%, C=40%. To determine who’s eliminated we combine these two shares for the total:

Couple A: 20+48.72%= 68.72%
Couple B: 40+33.33%= 73.33%
Couple C: 40+17.95%= 57.95%
In this case, the bottom two couples would be A and C, and C would be eliminated.”

If you follow the math of the process, and you understand the show we can see that the two key variables have very different limits.  In any given dance, the most the judges can score a dance is a 10. Across the 3 judges (and yes i realize there are some weeks they try different things, but the math still works) a couple on the show can’t score more than 30 total points.

This is particularly important in the early weeks of the show.  Early on the total scores of all the contestants is relatively high, so the percentage of total scores for even the couples getting the highest possible scores with the judges is relatively small.

For example, if 9 couples score 30 and 1 couple gets 0 points, thats right a total goose egg, the couples with 30s would each have 1/9 (30/270) or 11.1pct of the total score. You would then add to that total the percentage of viewer votes that each couple got. So if the couple that got a zero from all 3 judges got 25pct of the vote and none of the other couples got more than 14 pct of the vote, then the couple who got nothing but zeros from the judges would actually have won that week !

As the number of participants decline over the course of the show, the importance of the judges votes increase, but the popular vote is still more important. Again, because there is a limit on the scores from judges, but  no limit on the number of  viewer votes a couple can get.

This was particularly evident for this past week 9 with the elimination of Brandy and Maks.  The scores for all 4 couples were relatively close.  There were a total of 228 points awarded. Jennifer and Derek got a perfect 60 for 26.3 pct of the vote. Kyle had a 58 and 25.4 pct , Brandy had 57 and 25pct while Bristol was at the bottom with a 53 and 23.2 pct of the vote.  On a night where ABC said they got more total votes than any non finals week, in order to get to the finals, all Bristol and Mark had to do was get  about 2pct more votes from the fans to get to the finals, which she obviously did.

We also don’t know the order the couples finished in. Only that Brandy and Maks were eliminated. It may well be that Bristol is so popular that came in first place with plenty of room to spare. Or maybe she barely scraped ahead of Brandy and Maks. Thats the beauty of DWTS voting. The viewers don’t know the actual order or how many votes anyone got. Which in turn motivates more to vote.

So here we are at the finals. I don’t know if they are going to score the 3 finalists against each other, or if they will re calculate the scores so its just the final two against each other.  We have to see what the show does. But again, it doesn’t change the math.

Who ever has the lower judges total scores for the final dances can make it up by gaining more votes from the viewers. The most the judges can give is a 30. There is no limit to the total number of votes that can be cast for either couple.  Given that historically the judges scores for the finals have been relatively close, it will all come down to viewer votes. Again.

Some folks think that gives Bristol the edge. Or maybe it will incent the fans of  Jennifer and Derek or Kyle and Lacey to vote in greater numbers.  All I know is that I will be watching !

And no I wont be voting. I only vote for my former partner Kym 🙂

42 thoughts on “How Dancing with the Stars Voting Works = Why Bristol Palin Could Win Easily

  1. Dancing with the stars voting! Excactly I said every time they cheating by the voting. And I think that not only cheat by this,you look at X-Factor or something. The tv productors looking who person is better to market.In the shows one guy is better and have the most of calls, but in the final win a other after this they reported a negative think about the better guy that all people belive it

    Comment by fieristici -

  2. bu programı görmedim… yinede teşekkür ederim

    Comment by olfir -

  3. Pingback: How Dancing with the Stars Voting Works = Why Bristol Palin Could Win Easily | RuanLe

  4. Dear Mr. Cuban

    I’ve been hoping I could get one more chance at stock trading. When you make a mistake the way I did. It is so painful I will never do that again. I should never made that mistake and had a protective stop in place. My real goal was to buy Silver Wheaton when it collapsed. I would of been way ahead right now because they were printing money like crazy.
    I want to meet you. I have been emailing you for years now.The thing is I know I can win again. There is one book that can make it happen Mr. Cuban. I will follow those rules.

    Mark Farwell

    Comment by whitewoody77 -

  5. I wish I could dance like these people. They are so talented must be great coaches on the show.

    After the stock market mistake. I started to play poker. 7 screens on the internet at once. I had a talent in playing, so much I started playing at one casino. I started winning everyday in my hometown. Then they made it hard to get on a table. So I moved to a new location where I would play 12 hrs straight sometimes even more. Now I figured out that when I get up a certain amount of money. I walk away and go to another. This is very good and I can’t wait to go to Las Vegas.
    An incident occurred that derailed my plans. I can only talk about it in private. Not on an open site. Well now after all my winnings I am right back where I started. I can’t get ahead for trying. Sometimes you have to know when to fold them in life.


    Comment by whitewoody77 -

  6. Hi Mr.Cuban. I never give up. Right now I am at my weakest point. I have to start all over. I’ll tell you about.
    Let me start from the beginning. I have wanted to be a stock trader since I was a little boy. That was so important to me. My favorite movie was Wall Street. Except when he stabbed his mentor in the back.
    Well as soon as I could make money. I got a paper route to start my trading endeavour. At first it was hit and miss I admit. Then 4 years later I started to win consistently. In one full year I took my account from 15k^63k. I was so excited. I felt great.
    However, I made 1 fatal error because of greed I lost on a stock. I was working on the rigs and couldn’t get out of my position and I forgot to put in a stop to preserve my capital. It is killing me inside that one mistake could be so devastating. I dropped back down to 19k and then was too gun shy to try again.
    I planned to put my 60k into stocks like gold, silver, bank even a bit in Ford when they hit lows. I should never of put my eggs in one risky stock and diversified in the main players.
    I want a chance to redeem myself and I am hoping you can get me back there.
    Why you? Because you are my role model who know’s business.

    Glad your Mavericks are in first place. Everything you touch seems to turn to gold.

    Mark William Farwell

    Comment by whitewoody77 -

  7. Can you help thy weakest brother Mr. Cuban. I am LOYAL.

    Comment by whitewoody77 -

  8. I still liked the season You and Floyd Mayweather was on. I haven’t watched it much this year. But I am hoping for Bristol.

    The other thing I wished on a falling sar last night ist that you could help me out. I know everyone asks you this but I want the good life too. It’s harder and harder for me to do it in this society. I need to be in the “In Crowd.” per se. Waddya say. I have been shawshanked for years but I want a fresh start and only you can help. Can you help thy weakest brother. Your a role model to me and I hope you can think about helping someone who has tried like crazy to be rich and successful for my family.
    That doesn’t mean I want money I need a friend or helping hand. I have 2 things I am good at Poker and the stock market. Can you help a pos white guy like me find out what it feels like to be a winner again. I wished on a shooting star last night and you popped in my head Mr. Cuban.

    Mark Farwell

    Comment by whitewoody77 -

  9. I have seen the show in my visits in the USA. I would have tuned C for Couple, but I think, one must be fair, Couple A is also ok. And so far the results are not apart. I would be glad if there was such show also in Europe. Then here the TV would not be so dull any more.

    Comment by alpenhof11 -

  10. I´m not contended, the fails decision.

    Comment by oro111 -

  11. In the moment is “The Super Talent” very modern in the Tv’shows sceene.Dancing with the stars is out.

    Comment by xposeprint1 -

  12. For myself the right decision…. I´m very contented.

    Comment by china125 -

  13. I think it was a good show. The jury decided that the spot ..

    Comment by pompavehidrofor -

  14. For me is Dancing with the Stars fair and honest, regardless of the vote result.

    Comment by pricehouse125 -

  15. The result of the vote is not astonishing for me.

    Comment by fshuttle -

  16. Hi, ltdwelt11, a proposal to you…. dances with yourself.

    Comment by wepi125 -

  17. somewhere in space millions of years from now in another galaxy someone will see that episode and die alright. The best blogger under the son

    Comment by velvetj -

  18. Matches Malone: Actually, no I’m Republican. What part of my comment would lead you to believe I’m a Democrat?

    Comment by dcangelo -

  19. It seems to me that they make this show up of people that are celebrities dying for attention and they stage controversies that are fictitious just to try and keep our attention.Your mathematical probabilities would be spot on in a fair contest but ratings are my gut instinct’s suspicion. Wouldn’t that factor be considered as a type of friction? (in other words the dancers crowd draw factor)

    Comment by 2zpoint -

  20. Dancing with stars one of the best series in the modern tv. I hope, that we can watch this a long time ago.

    Comment by naturstein125 -

  21. And who dances with me?

    Comment by ltdwelt11 -

  22. Mark,
    What’s your take on the voting issues DWTS had last night and people talking about Dancing with the Stars being rigged. More discussion of it:

    Comment by sytycd -

  23. Now, I understand how the voting works. I’m going to be a big Fan of Dancing with stars.

    Comment by etlovesgod -

  24. Enjoyed this post

    Comment by michaeldeshazer -

  25. Pingback: Dancing with the Stars ~ Fall 2010 - TV - Page 70 - City-Data Forum

  26. I`m a big Fan of Dancing with the stars Every Saturdayevenung on the prime time,I watch with my dancing with the stars I love it.

    Comment by zahnarztbg -

  27. Dancing with the stars not so intresting 4 people who works. My free time is to important 4 me to watch so a bullsh….

    Comment by bauelemente125 -

  28. Hello Mark!
    Let me start by saying congratulations on the good job you are doing with the Dallas Mavericks as far as being an owner. I hope you will win a championship soon.
    Regarding Bristol Palin and Dancing with The Stars, something seems a miss as far as the public votings go. Thanks for your indept explanation. I personally liked Kurt Warner. Bristol is trying, but if the show is about dancing, then the people voting can’t dance.

    Comment by milepostsproductions -

  29. @dcangelo I guess this makes you, a Democrat.

    In any case, it has ALWAYS BEEN A POPULARITY CONTEST. What part of that don’t you get? And of course it’s about ratings. The show wouldn’t have lasted this long if it wasn’t, A) an audience draw, and B) cheap to produce.

    As for phone votes, you only get the number of votes they allow, and it varies from week to week, and it’s usually one less than the number of contestants. At least, that’s the way it used to be. Dont know if that’s changed….

    Comment by Matches Malone -

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  31. To me, the bigger picture than fair judging is fair competition. I find it ridiculous that they invite entertainers with this sort of experience—(singers and movie actors who have been paid to dance). It hardly seems like a level playing field to have Jennifer Grey (who was the co-lead in a dance movie) against Bristol Palin, who is only known as the daughter of a VP candidate and who has never danced in front of an audience.

    Comment by dcangelo -

  32. @griffithchris I truly wish The View would die the horrible death it so richly deserves….

    Comment by Matches Malone -

  33. Pingback: How Dancing with the Stars Voting Works | Sarah Palin's Alaska

  34. Hey Mark,
    I already fully understood how the voting worked but it is great that you explained it in detail for others.

    I have several issues with the show.

    It is called DANCING with the STARS.
    1. It is a dancing contest
    2. The Stars? Well I assume them to be celebrities in some form or another.

    Why is Bristol Palin considered a “star” ?

    As for voting… the beginning I always vote for who I think has the most potential and who I’d like to see last more than one week. Several examples would be yourself, Clyde Drexler, Rick Fox and Kurt Warner. As the contest get’s down to the final 4 I tend to vote for the BEST DANCER. Appollo comes to mind and Emmitt Smith.

    I believe the athletes do well because they are best able to learn the dances and are committed to practice (even accustomed to it from their repsective sports fields), then all they have to do is learn the “entertain” part.

    As for Bristol Palin. She is CLEARLY the worst dancer on the show. She is not as bad as Kate Goesslin was but she is still bad. She has ZERO personality. Foxy. Audrina, Kurt and Brandy all should have stayed over Bristol. Brandy being voted off was a travesty.

    When I vote I do it on-line. I have ONE ID and I give my votes based on a few criteria. Last week I gave them to Brandy as she was the best for the week.

    What is to stop people from creating NUMEROUS accounts online and bombarding Bristol with votes. It happened with Clyde Drexler, he was CLEARLY not a great dancer but all of Oregon kept him in many more weeks than he should have been. It was sentimental voting and not based on his DANICNG. Same thing happened with Cloris Leachman. I have no clue who was voting for Kate Gosselin.

    The fact of the matter is that it IS a DANCE content, it is not an election or popularity contest and it is clear to me that the Tea Cup’s are voting for Bristol in huge numbers and that’s just WRONG. This is not an election and yes Bristol has improved from day 1 but so has everyone else. Brandy CLEARLY deserved to be in the finals over Bristol.

    I think the folks at DWTS need to put more thought into who they ask to come on the show. I also don’t like it when they have people like Mel B on who had LOADS of dance experience to begin with. That’s an unfair advantage. I think the playing field needs to be more fair and I also believe they asked Bristol on to the show for ratings. Well they got that didn’t they? I don’t know how the phone votes work as in making sure people can only vote there allotted amount but on-line it is VERY POSSIBLE that people can abuse the system.

    Bristol has to be kidding when she says America voted for her coz they an see how hard she is working. It is CLEAR to me that she is still on the show due to the overwhelming votes she is getting for reasons other than her dance moves. The show is flawed. Bristol knows FULL WELL she should have gone home over Brandy and she laughs that she is being kept on it because of the Tea Party.

    If she wins the entire thing it will be a travesty. My idea is that they implement voting options for who you want to see GO HOME. So every week we can vote the best dancer and the worst dancer. I believe that would put in place some balance. Those voting for Bristol should be ashamed of themselves. It is a DANCE contest people not to be confused with an electon!

    Comment by lakergirl1 -

  35. I don’t have tv in the home so I don’t actually watch DWTS but have followed the saga in the commentary by the cackling crows on The View (

    Who woulda thought a little girl with no dance experience or an agenda could pish off so many people. Behar seems to take Palin’s longevity on the show as a personal attack.

    It’s hilarious.

    Comment by griffithchris -

  36. Pingback: Pop Culture Friday | Greater Falls!

  37. This show has always been a popularity contest, and nothing more. This has been known since the very first season. If you have fans, or a cause, you’ll last longer than you should.

    PS, you spelled Palin wrong….

    Comment by Matches Malone -

  38. puresytycd, I read the article by Princess Heidi and found the math Dancing with the Stars math computations reminding me of the female version of the NFL playoff scenario formulas that start cropping up near the end of the NFL season.

    Who said women and math don’t mix.

    Comment by Alessandro Machi -

  39. I have never seen this program… but do the judges score card subconsciously effect the audiences’ opinion? A bit like an advertisement?

    Comment by jensontaylor -

  40. Nice analysis Mark. This is what we do every week on Pure DWTS. Here’s a sample of the last week: We also break it down to how many more votes per million a star needs to get than another star to survive. That illustrates even more how important the audience vote is and how little the judges scores matter.

    Comment by sytycd -

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  42. Very well researched. Now that you have explained it to me I believe something is missing from the voting process.

    Based on the number of couples performing, say it was 8, whomever finished first on the judges scoring alone would get a score of 8, then if they placed last on the popular vote, they would get a 1 for a combined score of 9.

    This does two things, it makes the judges nuanced scoring matter more, and it also makes both scoring methods equal with each other. The flaw however is that it will create more ties.

    I’d make the tie breaker a plus one to whomever finished first every week based on the judges score alone, and a minus one to the worst score. This would prevent any dancers from winning based solely on having too much popularity with the public voting while still giving
    the audience a huge sway in who wins.

    Comment by Alessandro Machi -

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