Predicting X Factor, Part 4: The sympathy bounce

What’s the “sympathy bounce”? It’s when an act survives being in the bottom two, and then the following week avoids being in the bottom two.

On the face of it, we should be surprised when this happens. When an act survives the bottom two, you know for sure that it received the lowest public support of all the acts that will return again next week. So you might expect there’s a very good chance that act would be in the bottom two again.

The voting figures published at the end of the 2008 and 2009 seasons of the X Factor allow us to see just how strong the sympathy bounce can be.

In 2009, only one act was in the bottom two for two consecutive weeks: Rachel Adedeji in weeks one and two. Such was her sympathy bounce after week two, however, she actually topped the vote in week three.

Danyl Johnson was the bottom two survivor in week three. And he topped the vote in week four.

In 2008, the survivor in week one – Girlband – was again bottom two in week two, and eliminated. But the next four survivors of the bottom two all jumped at least four places in the voting the following week.

We don’t know the voting figures for previous series, because X Factor haven’t released them. But we can say that, across the total of six series, of the 26 acts who were in the bottom two for the first time and survived, 19 were voted to safety by the public the following week.

How long does a sympathy bounce last? More often than not, just a week. Of 22 first-time sympathy-bouncers, 14 were in trouble again the following week. Take note that of the remaining eight, though, five bounced high enough to carry them through at least three further weeks.

And can you bounce a second time? You can. Of the seven acts that have survived the bottom two having already enjoyed one sympathy bounce, four enjoyed a second sympathy bounce.

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