“BEHAVIOR AT THE POLLS”
Last week, fellow MGoBlogger Mmmm Hmmm posted a diary which discussed the behavior of the polls with relation to teams in the Big Ten, and reading it opened the door to an intriguing possibility. As there are sites now which in fact capture the voting patterns of the polls down to the individual voter, such as Pollspeak.com, it is possible to create a visual representation of how the polls react to a team on a weekly basis. Naturally, the team I chose as a test case for this was Michigan.
The AP poll is the most readily available when it comes to individual voter data, so that’s the one I chose for this exercise. I used Pollspeak.com to generate the team reports for each week from the preseason until the most recent data available and then downloaded the information for each week (it is available in CSV format from the site) into Excel. For our purposes, we shall leave individual names off the ballots and focus on how the rankings themselves behave.
I created two tables – one for the raw voter data, and another which counts by ranking how many voters placed us at a given position on their ballot. It was not until this point that I realized how convenient the COUNTIF function on Excel can be, incidentally. The resulting graphs for each week come out of the second table and allow for week-over-week comparison of the behavior of Michigan’s ranking per the opinion of the AP voters.
For the weekly data, the horizontal axis is the particular ranking, and the vertical axis is how many votes were cast at that ranking for Michigan.
On each graph, as the week’s progress, if you follow the mode (the highest bar) and look in either direction, it is clear that consensus was beginning to build regarding Michigan’s ranking at different points. From Weeks 3 through 6, for example, we attained more third place votes than anything else, and with each week, more voters began to agree with the third place ranking. From weeks 7 through 10, you can see a similar trend for our second place ranking. At Week 11, you see the poll which was submitted the day after our loss to Ohio State, and with that game, the mode fell to fourth place and the general agreement among voters vanished. Week 12 shows the poll as of January 21st, coming off the win against Minnesota, and you will note that many forgave us – in a way – for the Ohio State loss in this poll as the mode is once again building around a second place ranking.
Now that the general format is laid out for tracking these (at least on this strange-looking Excel Workbook that I have created), it will be possible (and convenient) in the future to do comparisons between teams as well in addition to tracking individual teams, at least within the confines of the AP data.