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Most votes are made of bias and fail

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1/30/2012 10:05:56 PM
Posted: 6 years ago
Hello everyone, here is some cynicism about voting:

As far as I can tell, the best predictor of whoever wins a debate is whoever side is the one the majority of voters agree with. This sucks for a site about debating.

My most recent debate (which I am losing) is with 16kadams about gay marriage:

Voters so far have given the most points to the guy they agreed with before the debate (indeed, that was sometimes included in the RfD).* The two atheist/liberals (I think) gave me points, whilst the four social conservatives gave my opponent points. (One vote was a votebomb, and another vote was by someone who was related to my opponent).

Of course, I've benefited from this effect too. The two uber hard debates I have had with Modivarch and InquireTruth were decided by a single vote from an Atheist going 'my way'.

I looked at the really heavily voted upon debate on gay marriage between contradiction and freeman: Under the (not unreasonable) assumption that Christian OR conservative would be more sympathetic to contradiction, whilst Atheist OR Liberal would be more sympathetic to Freeman, the voting patterns (- votebombs) are wholly accounted for by prior sympathy. ALL the Christians/Conservatives gave more points to Contradiction, whilst ALL the Atheists/Liberals gave more points to Freeman.

I did a quick search through completed debates on gay marriage, and the same pattern came up. First three examples:

Out of these three, only two voters voted 'against' their likely prior sympathy: vmpire321 and 16kadams in the last debate.

This is extremely good evidence for the fact that most votes are given not on quality of argument, but prior sympathy of the voter. (A very easy global check of this is to see if there is a correlation between arguments and agreed before debate or sources and agreed before debate). A quick look at God topics suggests the same sort of problem - other topics are harder to evaluate simply because people don't have such clearly identifiable prior sympathies.

For a debating site, this obviously bites. If the main factor on whether you win or not is whether the voters already agree with you, then things turn into an ideological popularity contest.** All the ways I can think of making it better:

1) Only debate topics people won't have strong opinions on, and so will more likely vote on merit alone.

2) Some 'bias metric' which can be used and displayed. Could be gamed, but perhaps better than nothing.

3) Counting the votes of voters with a 'better' track record more. If I was s reasonable a voter as doubleR, I'd find it pretty demotivating to give my half page 3:0 RfD only to be swamped out by people going 0:5 with "I agree with CON and I liked his sources more"

4) Re. [3] generally finding some way of rewarding 'quality' of judging. Perhaps even allowing debaters to 'limit' voting to those with particular scores.

5) Some voting discipline - recusing yourself from topics where you already have a strong opinion?

Any better/feasible ideas?

* As a complete aside, I think source points harm more than help. It seems debaters are winning points just for including more (or better) citations, and not their relevance to an argument. In the limiting case, I don't think someone deserves source points if their arguments are shown to be unresponsive by their opponent without them needing to cite sources themselves.

** Worse, the smaller the difference between the debaters, the greater effect the bias will have. Most people are happy to vote against type when people forfeit or whatever, but it is much harder to subconsciously give the nod to 'your man' when there is very little to tell between them anyway.
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1/31/2012 12:07:58 AM
Posted: 6 years ago
People are biased, the voters are people, ergo the voters are biased.

But yes, if you are here long enough you see that just like you have the top debaters, you have the top voters. These voters clearly demonstrate they have really analysed the debate and its contents and not just voting their own biased on what they agree with.
"Seems like another attempt to insert God into areas our knowledge has yet to penetrate. You figure God would be bigger than the gaps of our ignorance." Drafterman 19/5/12