May 4, 2006 -- Did you vote for Elliott Yamin in Wednesday night's "American Idol?"
Did your vote against Paris Bennett have anything to do with what Simon Cowell said? If the answer is yes, you are not alone.
Did you vote in the last election for president of the United States? If the answer is no, you also have a lot of company.
Nearly one in 10 Americans have voted on this season of "American Idol," and 35 percent of voters believe their vote to send someone off the "Idol" stage counts at least as much as their vote to send someone to the White House, according to a survey released on Wednesday.
As for Cowell's caustic critique of contestants -- fans found his wisdom to be the most valuable of the opinions offered by any of the three "Idol" judges.
Pursuant Inc., a Washington, D.C.-based public opinion research company, conducted the random survey of 1,045 adults. It found that 44 percent of Americans had watched at least some of this year's "American Idol" contest, in which fans can vote for their favorite performer either by calling a toll-free number, or by sending a text message from their cell phone.
Appropriately enough, the biggest determining factor in why contestants received the audience's votes was the quality of their singing voice. A substantial portion of those who voted -- one in five -- said they did so because they felt one of the potential idols had "star quality."
One of the study's authors sees power in those votes.
"People are voting, and they're seeing performers take action, making corrections," said Melissa Marcello, the president of Pursuant Inc. "Maybe they don't see that with the president [of the United States]."
About 120 million Americans -- 60 percent of eligible voters -- cast ballots in the presidential election of 2004. The number of "Idol" voters is far lower, which could explain the feeling that a vote to find the next Ruben Studdard counts more than a vote to find the next George W. Bush. Also -- "Idol" voters can vote as many times as they like.
Marcello said the majority of "American Idol" voters tended to have two or more people in their household. She is hopeful that lessons learned in voting for the next "Idol" might carry over when voting for the next president.
"That would be really cool if that kind of dialogue happened in families around the next presidential election," she said.
Some of the other reasons that people voted for specific contestants on "American Idol" included: wanting someone to win, song choice, choice of music genre, and sex appeal.
Five percent of "Idol" fans who have voted this year did so primarily because they agreed with one of the judges. After Cowell, Randy Jackson was considered to be the most trustworthy judge. Only 14 percent of viewers valued pop star Paula Abdul's judgment more than the others.