X Factor 2013 Final: Second Friend?

Saturday morning of the X Factor final is all about the YouGov poll for The Sun. For those who haven’t yet seen it, the answer to the question, ‘Which of the finalists do you want to win?’ had the following response from 1,219 viewers: 56% Sam Bailey, 24% Luke Friend, 11% Nicholas McDonald, 9% none or don’t know.

The surprise is that Nick is so low and trailing Luke. What may confuse further is the response to the question: ‘Who did you vote for last weekend?’ The answer given to the YouGov pollsters is as follows: 42% Sam, 24% Luke, 20% Nick, 13% Rough Copy. Clearly Nick finished above Luke in last week’s actual phone vote, because it was the latter who ended up in the singoff. Just what’s going on here?

Polling, like any statistical data, has to be interpreted. There are a few points to make about the findings suggesting more people voted for Luke than Nick last week, when we know it wasn’t actually the case. Firstly, given the sample size, the margin of error would be more than the 2% required anyway.

Secondly, some people provide misinformation to pollsters, whether accidentally or not. The most famous example of this was the 1992 general election, when pollsters were caught out because people didn’t admit that they intended to vote Conservative. One’s preference in a TV singing competition seems less of a big deal than your political leanings, so why would people misremember their semi-final vote?

It’s worth checking back to see our article on last year’s YouGov poll which proved impressively accurate compared to the actual results. The biggest difference between the polls and actual voting didn’t come in the final, which you would expect given that people have the opportunity to change their minds. It came in the question concerning whom respondents voted for in the semi-final.

Only 10% said they voted for eliminated Union J, whereas the boyband’s actual vote was 18.1%, just 0.6% behind Chris Maloney. Maybe the 8% who said “can’t remember” were too shy to admit they’d plumped for Union J. What it shows us is that, whilst you would hope the question of who you voted for last weekend would be more accurate than who do you want to win this weekend, it’s subject to the same issues of poller reliability.

Other difficulties with polling X Factor compared to, say a general election, are that people can vote multiple times and under 18s can vote (but are not surveyed). YouGov’s X Factor polling has tended to underplay those acts more popular with a younger demographic such as One Direction, Cher, Little Mix, Union J and James Arthur – but the amounts have generally been getting smaller with each passing year.

This year’s sample size is just half that of last year’s and that is an extra reason to be cautious about the polling that YouGov have done, professional and series-long though it has been. Lower ratings means fewer votes, means smaller sample sizes, means a greater margin of error.

Bearing that in mind, what can we say about this weekend’s final?

Sam Bailey deserves to be a very strong favourite. Even allowing for all the polling discrepancies that can occur, she most likely won the semi-final comfortably and is the public’s overwhelming first choice. The only time a semi-final phone vote winner has failed to take the crown since records were available in 2008, was when Alexandra Burke easily overcame a 4% deficit against JLS, aided by the star power of Beyonce and their brilliant duet.

Otherwise, it’s worth noting the phone vote percentages of previous semi winners that went on to take the prize: Joe McElderry 42.2%, Matt Cardle (35.84% – up against four rivals instead of the usual three), Little Mix 34.4%, James Arthur 41.2%. Sam Bailey fans should be encouraged by that.

Producers seem likely to do everything for her this weekend. She’s reprising her best performance from previous rounds, week 1’s ‘Power of Love’, whilst other song choices, ‘Edge of Glory’ plus ‘And I’m Telling You’ with Nicole Sherzinger, also seem designed to help her shine. Expect to be told plenty of times that she “deserves” to win, and to guard against complacency, “you’ve got to pick up your phone and vote”.

A more interesting question may well be: who comes second? I think this is a close one to call. We’ve already established not to take the polling completely at face value. Nicholas did beat Luke in last week’s phone vote, and has regional support in Scotland that is likely to be motivated. I certainly don’t expect Luke to beat Nicholas by 13 percentage points. The question is: just how big an impact does the Scottish vote have? We’ll get some idea tonight.

Nonetheless, the polling does hold out some encouragement for Luke managing second this weekend. There is an anomaly in the semi-final figures, but Luke has stretched his lead over Nicholas significantly in the final poll. He may well have picked up many of the Rough Copy supporters or floating voters among the younger demographic, a group we have already suggested gets underplayed in the polling.

Luke also has one of his best performances to reprise – week 7’s ‘What Makes You Beauitful’. Nicholas, on the other hand, doesn’t get his best performance to reprise, although there was nothing wrong with his week 3 rendition of ‘Angel’. Nicholas is also stuck with ‘Candy’ which doesn’t promise to play to his strengths, although I can’t say I’m particularly wowed by Luke’s equivalent song choice, ‘We Are Young’. Still, it may well be Advantage Friend in these two rounds.

Much has also been made of Nicholas drawing the short straw in having Westlifer Shane Filan for his duet. It’s hardly inspiring, and it doesn’t get any more middle-of-the-road than ‘Flying Without Wings’. Luke has something far more current in his duet of ‘Anything Could Happen’ with Ellie Goulding, though that one could go either way. Still, if producers are likely to favour one over the other, it’s Luke, who is more commercially viable. Song choices and duet partners reinforce this.

I don’t take it lightly that Scotland will be largely on Nick’s side this weekend. But the polling data suggests he has enough ground to catch up to make it a close-run thing. Yet you can get much better prices on Luke beating Nicholas in various markets such as top boy at 9/4 and Luke to finish second at 11/4. Nicholas is also 5/2 to finish third with Betfred and it’s 13/5 with Bwin the Sam / Luke straight forecast. Despite all the caveats about this year’s polling, that arguably represents the best value to be found in the final.

That leaves us with the following prediction:

1. Sam Bailey; 2. Luke Friend; 3. Nicholas McDonald

Let us know your thoughts on the final countdown below.

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56 comments to X Factor 2013 Final: Second Friend?

  • Jessica Hamby

    Is there no Betsfactor podcast this weekend?

  • Jessica Hamby

    Thanks Daniel. I actually went over to Betsfactor and found it there. I’ve never read the site before and now, just as he’s pulling the plug, I find out how much I’ve been missing.

    Oh well…..

    I hope you’re going to keep going for a while yet.

    I’ve just discovered this Reality TV betting thing and gone through it all with imaginary bets, come out with an imaginary profit and now I’m thinking about risking a little money next time it seems to be falling apart.

    Say it ain’t so Joe. Say there will still be 25-1 shots that no-one except the cogniscenti will pick up next year…..

  • Roxie

    I think it’s less to do with misremembering and more to do with sympathy. Remember Nick crying? That would have motivated his voters to do something that YouGov can rarely take into account – multiple voting. They were only 4% apart, and the tears were enough reason for floating voters, his loyal fans and his huge demo to feel some sort of pity for him. I suspect he beat Luke by a narrow margin that week, otherwise the producers would have got their intended Nick vs Rough Copy showdown with Nick going. Shame the tears had to throw a spanner in the works though.

  • annie

    My only issue is…If Sam was so comfortably ahead and winning …why would they bother with continuing to deramp Nick … once he’s in the final, what difference does it make if he’s second or third? The only thing separating second and third place is that the runner up gets to present the winner’s single as well… maybe they decided to capitalise on that like they do for ex. in Xf australia and they want luke to have this opportunity? Otherwise I can’t really see why would they care who second or third is,as long as the winner is as desired.

    • AnnaC

      The producers need a strong narrative tension in order to get viewers on Sunday. Sam v Nick doesn’t provide that as it has been clear for weeks that either Sam or Nick would win. The only narrative is the dark horse, Luke the outsider, who has made it to the final. The producers need to persuade the audience that the dark horse might, just might, possibly win the show and for that they need Nick to go out tonight.

  • Roxie

    And I am happy that I had the same predictions as YouGov. You have to think about how Luke went into the lives and survived till Week 6 without landing B2 and then got the prestigious influence of One Direction during Week 7. It’s his capacity to pick up floating voters. He went into the competition effectively handicapped having less screen time than anyone else bar Lorna.

  • Chris bellis

    Jessica – I’ve spent a lifetime moving in betting circlesand believe me, if it’s 25-1 at the bookies, it should really be 250-1. The best value is in laying the closer favourites.

  • Jessica Hamby

    I don’t really know how laying works. I’ll have to look into it (but not today – I really should be baking brownies and an apple cake and I have to go and get lemons in a minute).

    I would have laid Joey for IACGMOOH though, if I’d known what it was.

    I was thinking of some of the early evictions in IAC. Lalia Morse, particularly seemed a cert to me to go and she was 25-1 and viewed as an outsider by the bookies even though she’d said she wanted to go and she’d been behaving like (if I may use a technical term here) a right cow.

  • tpfkar

    Interesting stuff – and it doessuggest that they nearly got Nick bottom 2 last week. Very similar trajectory to Chris Moloney in that case. It does seem that the boys are fighting for 2nd. I am not convinced that Luke will get it, but hey I’ve underestimated him all series so why change now?

  • Donald

    Good luck to all this weekend. Sam is very short but looks like a winner.

  • Jessica Hamby

    Thanks Chris. Definitely not joking. Not about the cakes and not about lay betting. I’ve only placed about 3 bets in my life, all in betting shops and all on the Grand National.

    I do have an amazing recipe for a gooey chocolate brownie though if you’re interested.

  • Dean

    Nick first again? They don’t even offer any variety haha this show is just awful

  • Jessica Hamby

    This sentimentality in Nicholas’s VT makes me want to thtow up.

    Does this mean I’m a bad person?

    It’s like a winner’s homecoming. Will they be doing that for everyone?

    Gotta say his Candy is not great though. Coloir vomit on a monumental scale, a rubbish song, distracting dancers and he moves around the stage like a crab trying to hold a shit in.

  • R

    Watched 10 seconds of the show. All on podiums, Sam in the centre aka the gold medal position.

  • Dean

    Nick will go tonight. Gary negative. Louis saying all the deramping things a judge can say. SCOTLAND vote lol

  • Dean

    If you didn’t know who the chosen one was… Still think they really want Luke runner up now and they’ve achieved what they wanted.

  • Dean

    Sorry for multiple comments but my only fear would be they really bombed Nick while pimped Sam that much that surely Nick wasn’t THAT far away from Sam in the SF votes? I mean normally they are much nicer to final contestants whatever the case, but not Nick.

  • Jessica Hamby

    Christ. Wtf is she wearing. That jumpsuit is hideous. Her effort at sliding down the pole was risible. That song will have delighted multiple demos though, being contemporary and also a power ballad in the classic style.

    I can’t see what demo Nick’s song was aimed at. Deaf people?

  • Jessica Hamby

    Are they trying to make Luke a sort of ersatz Londoner with the tube background and all the rest. Definitely seems to be getting more of a push from judges, song and staging than Nicholas.

  • Jessica Hamby

    Who is this Tom Odell no mark? I just feel like I’m being shouted at. It’s like if Keane were even more rubbish than they are.

  • Natasha

    I thought they were singing 3 songs each tonight? There surely isn’t enough time for them to sing the duets and their other one?

  • Jessica Hamby

    Now preparing for them to damn Nick with faint praise.

  • Dean

    Luke gets Ellie Goulding. Nick gets Shane Filan lol

  • Jessica Hamby

    Is that a sun, a black hole or something going nova behind them?

  • Jessica Hamby

    That was a red and black job on Nick too, and the choir was hidden by subdued lighting and aurally fairly anonymous. I’m not sure little Nicky will lice to see the morrow.

    He’s coming across as a bit cocky too. Not seen that before. That’s a huge deramp.

    Finally Luke is described as “the least commercial”. Not sure that’s right but it may well motivate some votes.

  • tpfkar

    Sam all the way for the win (although using her Nan to get her to cry was low – probably effective though)

    Feels like it’s a fair fight for second; Candy could have been worse and Nick’s had great VTs. Interesting that Sharon said Luke was the least commercial. Good luck everyone

  • Jessica Hamby

    Nicole just beat Sam Bailey into a bloody pulp – and Sam’s the best singer in the competition. Thank God they didn’t let the boys have superstars. That would have been embarassing.

    I’m sure there’s a phrase about handing someone their own ass on a plate. That’s what Nicole did to Sam. That girl can SING.

    • Sarah

      This. All of Nicole’s experience/training/range shined through…

      • Jessica Hamby

        The thing is that Sam’s had years of experience too but in fact she’s not top rank. She’s the second or third strata, maybe fourth. It doesn’t show against Hannah and Luke and Tamera but against real class her failings, lack of range, depth, focus, vo al and emotional power, all get shown up. Nicole has a sweeter tone than her too. She’s just head and shoulders better in every way. It’s not even close.

    • Lolalola

      Totally agree with that Jessica.

  • Rad

    Not sure that duet worked in Sam’s favour. Luke came off best in that round (although round 1 to Sam). Nic’s duet background was very Hunger Games…

  • Natasha

    What about song number 3??

  • Sarah

    Was it me or was there chatter over Sam/Nicole’s performance at the start?

    • tpfkar

      Sarah – yep heard it here. Not sure that duet really worked out well for Sam. Second best, odd song, little connection with audience.

    • Jessica Hamby

      I heard it too. At first I thought it was techies with an open mike channel but then I wondered if it was quotes from the film (which I’ve not seen).

      Either way it didn’t sound good.

      I wonder if in times to come they will call 2013 the year of the cock up.

  • Chris Bellis

    For me it’s Luke that acquitted himself well. We’ll see soon. Better than Killers anyway.

  • Jessica Hamby

    Wouldn’t be at all surprised to wave goodbye to Nick at this point.

  • Rob4

    never underestimate the Scottish inferiority complex lol

  • Jessica Hamby

    Now watching psychpaths on C4+1. If X-Factor was a person you cross the road when you saw it coming.

  • gonzo24

    Here’s my take on tonight. Nicholas – given awful song and colour vomit production. Gary criticizes the performance – almost unheard of in a final! Nicholas gets a “second-rate” (sorry Shane!) duet partner. It all gets so obvious that even a blind man on a galloping horse can see through it, generating big sympathy vote. Then, Nicholas manages a decent performance of Candy, and a far better than expected duet which sounds good and shows a connection between the singers (helped by the VT). Luke’s duet is noisy, Sam’s is overblown, and in what should have been her “moment” she is shown up as average by Nicole who completely takes over. So on the performances Nicholas gets another boost for doing well under adverse circumstances, and proving just how well he can sing. Result – a tense time for the production team (and Sofabetters!) as the votes for Nicholas mount up, and with a song more his style to come tomorrow, everything to play for!

    • Jessica Hamby

      She was set up for glory and failed in that duet fo’ sho’. Don’t see it damaging her sufficiently to lose though.

      Her first song was the standout of the solos even with her slightly dodgy stagecraft and hideous jumpsuit thing (who on earth gave her that to wear? Ghastly!!!).

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