Mumme Poll breakdown: checking out the homers.

Wrong Homer.

Wrong Homer.

As I’ve mentioned, one big target for the Mumme Poll is taking on the bias/conflict of interest problems that plague the Coaches Poll.  As Tony Barnhart illustrated in his post about the last regular season Coaches Poll vote in 2007 (it’s linked at the Mumme Poll page, above), it wasn’t just Hal Mumme’s blatant attempt to prop Hawaii’s position up in the poll results that was a concern, it was also things such as how all the coaches in a given conference voted with regard to its members.

Obviously, our voters don’t have the money stakes in the vote that the coaches do in theirs, but the Mumme Poll is a fan-based operation, so bias is still an issue to be evaluated.  It’s just that you have to take out the financial motivation and substitute an emotional one in its place.  And as I think about it, this has the potential to be one of the weak spots of the MP as an evaluation tool.

Here’s why:  while you might see, say, every coach in the Big Ten look favorably upon Ohio State in a given year in an (I’ll be charitable and call it unconscious) effort to enhance that school’s chances of appearing in a BCS game, they’re not voting that way because they’re Buckeye homeboys.  In other words, they’re not a coordinated bloc that can be counted on merely because of institutional loyalty.  On the other hand, our Ohio State voters do have that loyalty.

Why does that matter?  Well, remember that one thing approval voting is structured for is to reduce the impact that any one vote could have on the overall result.  Hal Mumme voted Hawaii number one because he believed that, given the design of the Coaches Poll which assigns more weight to a higher ranking, his vote alone would have an impact.  With approval voting, unless enough of his peers would vote the same way on Hawaii as Mumme, his attempt to manipulate the vote wouldn’t succeed, and knowing that was unlikely, Mumme’s own vote would have been different as a result.

What you have to worry about with our voters is that the psychology may be different.  Those Ohio State voters aren’t thinking about whether they can manipulate the results to get their beloved school into a BCS game with a big payoff; they just love their school.  And “they” is a key – it’s not like they’re voting as a coordinated, planned bloc, but you still have to be concerned that a group bias could come into play.

Now I’m not suggesting that’s happened, of course.  And there are two factors that would ameliorate the problem, if, in fact, it existed.  First of all, every school is likely to have its share of homers voting.  So to some extent, that should even out in the overall voting results.  And, in any event, there are a large number of voters who aren’t homers, whether that’s by design or circumstances (I’m looking at us, Georgia voters).

Anyway, it’s something I’ll be taking a look at over the rest of the season.  Here’s a breakdown of how some of the voting groups cast their ballots, compared to the overall results:

  • Ohio State:  10th in the MP; tied for 6th among OSU-affiliated voters.
  • Alabama:  1st in the MP; tied for 1st among Alabama-affiliated voters.
  • Florida:  2nd in the MP; tied for 1st among Florida-affiliated voters.
  • Texas:  3rd in the MP; tied for 1st among Texas-affiliated voters.
  • Penn State:  15th in the MP; 12th among Penn State-affiliated voters.
  • Georgia Tech:  18th in the MP, 13th among Tech-affiliated voters.

You can get into sample-size issues with this, so I don’t want to get too crazy with it.  But I think you can see that human nature is what it is.


Filed under Mumme Poll

13 responses to “Mumme Poll breakdown: checking out the homers.

  1. 69Dawg

    Not a voter but it seems the way to cure this is to throw out as a conflict any vote for your team. Now the problem with that is the reverse bias knowing that you can’t vote for your team would you try to screw you rival and leave them off too.

    Good luck with the MP it is a great attempt at a poll that is not biased.


    • Thanks.

      I’m not sure your ban is practical. First off, the coaches aren’t prohibited from doing that. Second, why shouldn’t a Gator fan be able to vote Florida first right now?

      I think what’s better is to disclose the affiliation, so that there’s transparency that can be monitored. (Something the CP is doing away with, mind you.) I also think it would be better for all 120 D-1 coaches to participate in the CP, so that (1) bias towards a coach’s own team would be leveled out and (2) the effect of one individual vote would be lessened. What’s so good about the MP in that regard is that we’ve got 400+ voters.

      Based on the first results, I don’t think that homerism is much of a problem, but I’ll watch it all season to see.


  2. Zulu

    From what I can gather, most of the voters here are SEC fans. Do you think such a representation would effect the results any; as in SEC teams being ranked higher, especially towards the end of the process as the final results come in?

    As an aside, my personal favorite team is an FCS power, and I literally flipped a coin for my ‘favored’ team here as I don’t particularly have a strong favorite FBS squad but several teams I do like for varied reasons.


    • It’s a good question. Right now, it’s hard to tell because there’s such a broad consensus nationally regarding the rankings for ‘Bama and Florida.

      I’d love to see how the MP would handle a regular season that ended like 2007.


  3. Interesting, but I think we’re all being a bit naive to think that a poll dominated by voters from the SEC isn’t biased against the Buckeyes. Ohio State hating is practically a religion down there (and not w/o reason).

    Instead of seeing OSU voters as being biased (which we probably are still a little bit), maybe it’s the poll at large that’s biased in the other direction?

    Human nature, indeed.


    • Another fair point.

      I just checked the analysis at the site on that. Voters of SEC-affiliated schools had Ohio State 11th and LSU 10th, the reverse of the overall poll order.

      Hey, don’t blame me. LSU barely made my top twelve. 😉

      (By the way, Big Ten voters had Ohio State 9th and LSU 12th.)


    • Dog in Fla

      I thought it was Notre Dame we were supposed to hate. Ohio State made my top 12…I think…


    • Macallanlover

      I don’t see any particular “hate” toward Ohio State, perhaps a lack of respect since they rarely win games outside ther own region. Big 11 teams don’t do home and home games with many conferences in the South, and over the past 20+ years have lost so many of the big games when they do meet them. UGA, for instance, hasn’t lost to a member of the Big 11 since 1957. Not hard to see why so many feel OSU and Michigan have gotten a pass for so long.

      If they begin winning games outside the Great Lakes area they will get respect. Until then, they will have to prove themselves the same way other teams who are too regionalized do. Win the big bowls against some team we can relate to, or play a schedule against teams other than your own dubious conference opponents, or the Akrons, Toledos, etc. You played Texas a few years ago, why not do that more often and include an upper tier SEC team, or a Miami/Va Tech/ type occasionally.

      Most of your OOC is MAC or PAC10 teams, or worse, and you wonder why people feel you get preferential treatment? Hate to tell you but the Big 11 and PAC10 are considered conferences with 1-2 quality teams per year, and you may escape playing one of them due to the lack of a CCG. Maybe you get away with that with the sportswriters in the AP poll, but probably not with the fans in the Mumme Poll. Do it the old fashioned way….earn it. Ohio State has played one team this year with comparable athletes, and they lost again.

      Ohio State has MUCH more scheduling flexibility than does UGA who has a neutral field rivalry and an OOC home and home rivalry series. The only possible explanation is they are ducking teams and challenges.


      • You had me and were making perfect sense until you started questioning the Buckeyes’ schedule.

        You played Texas a few years ago, why not do that more often and include an upper tier SEC team, or a Miami/Va Tech/ type occasionally.

        How’s this? The Buckeyes have home-and-homes scheduled with the following teams in the next ten years:
        – Miami (FL) (2010,2011)
        – Cal (2012,2013)
        – VaTech (2014,2015)
        – Oklahoma (2016, 2017)
        – Tennessee (2018, 2019)

        In the last five years, they played a home-and-home with Texas (’05 & ’06) and USC (’08 & ’09).

        I’ll give you the big game failures. It frustrates us to no end. But when you start talking about their OOC schedule like you did it doesn’t exactly portray you in the brightest of lights.


        • Macallanlover

          With all due respect, and as dim as I am, I acknowledged your series with USC and Texas, but I must confess your future schedule is off my radar. I stay up with most events but never heard this. Congrats, it is what I said was needed. It was only in the recent past your OOC was virtually all in-state. I know Penn State has a series scheduled with Alabama coming up. Maybe Michigan will get on board. CFB needs more of this.


  4. Senator, it’s a good point. But the problem is that you can never chase out “bias” from any poll.

    In some cases, it’s not love but familiarity that forms the bias. If a beat writer is assigned to cover a school on a daily basis, he’s more likely to know a lot about that team and its opponents. That means his vote for/against those teams is more informed than the one he casts for/against other teams. Is that a problem? No – you are glad to have his perspective, and you hope that by aggregating perspectives of others, which will have the same knowledge disparities distributed differently, you’ll capture something close to a unified view of the world.

    Same thing with passion. Ohio State fans after a brutal loss may tend to push their team down further after witnessing it live, while other more disinterested parties may decide that a 5-1 team that just lost to USC isn’t so bad. Michigan fans may respond to the same loss by tOSU by throwing them out of the poll (if they had ever included them in the first place). Does that make for a chaotic poll? Perhaps, but that’s why a high volume of votes is your best solution to bias.

    Even the best representative voting system known to mankind — the U.S. government — is designed to harness bias and turn it into meaningful results. It works because it acknowledges the human flaws and functions to funnel them in productive ways (or frustrate them).

    For me, the Mumme Poll succeeds because it does exactly the same thing. It avoids pre-season hype by waiting until later in the season to vote. It forces a voter to pick the best, not all, of the top teams in the country, limiting voters’ abilities to play games with the back end of the poll. And it now has a critical mass of voters whose “biases” are pooled together to create a unified whole. I’m satisfied.


  5. bergmoo

    Now that registration is closed can we see a breakdown of the affiliation of the voters. What percentage are for each school?