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I've been away for a while and last night I checked the results of the elections, which I followed with interest and in which I voted.

I congratulate KitFox and Simchona on their election and I hope they will continue to do a good job on this site. I'm sure that all the other worthy candidates who were in excess of the number of available positions will be as actively present on EL&U as they were before. This site may certainly profit from the active participation of all its members.

However, I was quite surprised at noticing the statistics connected with the present elections. As we can read in the historical record, "2,698 voters were eligible, 604 visited the site during the election, 695 visited the election page, and 137 voted", which means that the voters were a mere 19.7% of those who visited the election page and an absurdly low 5% of the eligible ones. If you compare these figures to the ones referring to last year's elections ("654 voters were eligible, 150 visited the election, and 101 voted"), you get respectively 67.33% and 15.44%.

Surely the number of people who visit the site has increased a lot since last year and it necessarily includes people who are only mildly interested in taking part in the running of the site. This could also mirror the general disillusionment for elections (just think of the percentages of voters for political elections in most countries). However, I was wondering whether there might be other reasons which could explain this lack of interest and participation in a democratic process. Perhaps it is not perceived as a democratic site? Perhaps some members resented a certain degree of aggressiveness (or unfriendly behaviour, if you prefer) which was palpable in some of the exchanges posted. Or it may be a form of protest.

What do you think?

P.S. Last night I posted this text in the already existing pre-election discussion (2012 Community Moderator Election), but I've been advised to make it a real question as to get people talk about the subject. I suppose the other text should be removed, or merged with this one. I'm open to suggestions.

  • I've deleted that answer, adding a link to this question. Now I must save Shog's comment I guess. – RegDwigнt Aug 27 '12 at 9:58
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    "Worth keeping in mind, there are a lot of 'drive by' users who show up here occasionally but don't really stick around once their questions are answered. They balloon the ranks of eligible voters, but that's about it. That's not necessarily a bad thing — these sites tend to thrive on the long tail — but of course you do need that core group who are around, participating, regularly." – Shog9♦ 8 hours ago – RegDwigнt Aug 27 '12 at 9:59
  • @ЯegDwight. It wasn't possible to save my own reply to Shog9's comment, was it? Or the two upvotes the question had obtained... – Paola Aug 27 '12 at 10:07
  • I figured you would save your own reply yourself. (Unlike Shog who is not even around right now to notice the deletion at all.) Voting information can't be transferred, either. (This is one of the rare occasions where being able to convert an answer into a question fully automatically would be a nice feature to have, but there are also good reasons against that, see this question over on the Meta meta.) – RegDwigнt Aug 27 '12 at 10:20
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    I'm personally curious about the 91 users who stopped by the elections page, but not the site itself. – Grace Note Aug 27 '12 at 18:53
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    @GraceNote Users from other sites getting there via a direct link. There was one nomination that got a lot of SE-wide attention. – user23030 Aug 28 '12 at 13:43
  • @MadScientist: which one? – Mitch Aug 29 '12 at 18:47
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    We had 2012 elections? :-) – T.E.D. Aug 29 '12 at 20:39
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No disrespect to those who participated in the 2012 election, but I don't think we're really comparing like with like here.

There may be an element of increased voter apathy - the more [potential] voters there are, the less any individual is motivated to vote, since his vote has proportionately less effect on the outcome.

But my understanding is 2011 was the first ELU election, where all three community-elected moderators needed to be selected/re-confirmed. By contrast, the 2012 election was simply adding a couple more to meet the needs of a growing site.

I did vote, and I applaud all those who threw their hat in the ring to give me that choice. But my perception was and remains that I'm reasonably happy with the way the site is managed. All I really wanted was "more of the same, please", and I suspect many others felt that way. Effectively, 2012 was a by-election, which usually produces a low turnout unless there's widespread dissatisfaction with the status quo.

So I'm fairly relaxed about the numbers. I realise this answer may take a hammering from community-minded users downvoting; those who agree either won't be here to read it, or will be too apathetic to upvote.

Note that I'm not saying the reduced turnout is actually good - just that it's not so bad the site needs to seriously change anything. But unlike some other "meta" questions, I'm not comfortable downvoting this particular question just because I don't see the issue being raised as a big problem.

3

As a Newbie, I was intrigued:

"2,698 voters were eligible, 604 visited the site during the election, 695 visited the election page, and 137 voted"

91 more people visited the election page than visited the (main) site?

I'm intrigued why a registered user would visit the election page, but not stop to browse the main (ever changing) content?

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    I don't know if this is the correct explanation, or if there are others as well, but I think you should read what MadScientist wrote yesterday as a comment to my post above. – Paola Aug 29 '12 at 13:50
  • How strange - I read all posts on this thread before making my comment, yet didn't notice that feedback... Thanks. The observation makes sense. – Andrew Aug 29 '12 at 14:03
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2,698 voters were eligible, 604 visited the site during the election, 695 visited the election page, and 137 voted", which means that the voters were a mere 19.7% of those who visited the election page and an absurdly low 5% of the eligible ones. If you compare these figures to the ones referring to last year's elections ("654 voters were eligible, 150 visited the election, and 101 voted"), you get respectively 67.33% and 15.44%.

I don't get 67%; I get 150/654=22.9%, which isn't all that different from 19.7%.

The figures are compatible with a large increase in “drive-by” users: of the 2044 additional voters, only 36 were committed enough to visit the site and vote in the relevant period. There are other interpretations of the figures, as you point out.

If someone thought the site was undemocratic and wanted to change that, they should stand and say so — preferably pointing out any shortcomings in a way which does not alienate. In fact we did have one such candidate this year, although he seemed to go out of his way to upset applecarts. Democracy works if everyone takes part; by excluding themselves on the grounds that the site is “undemocratic”, non-voters only perpetuate the [perceived] situation.

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    Your arithmetic is better than your reading of the question: 101/150 = 67%. And your point about democracy only working if the dissatisfied bestir themselves to stand and/or vote is perfectly correct, but has not prevented voters in Western democracies feeling powerless and unhappy, perhaps for the same reasons as here. – Tim Lymington supports Monica Aug 27 '12 at 14:09

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