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Football Democracy: Alternative Vote

19 January 2014

digitalWith 234 respondents listing the Premier League teams by order of preference, we can attempt to determine – at least in theory – the league’s most popular team.

We’ve already established that Arsenal are the favourite team of 23.5% of fans, but it is also true that they are disliked by many fans, and therefore cannot justifiably be called the most popular team.

One way of determining this is the Alternative Vote, also known as instant-runoff voting. The system, in a nutshell, attempts to establish a team that has more than 50% of the vote. It does this by eliminating the team with the fewest fans first, and transferring their votes to another team. The recipient team is determined by who fans of the least popular team chose as their second preference (or third, fourth, fifth etc. if that team is already eliminated).

In our example, a team needs 118 votes to ‘win’. Arsenal, on 55 first preference votes, are some way short of this despite being the most popular team. Norwich have 0 votes, and are instantly eliminated.


No one voted for Norwich, so we move onto round two without transferring any votes. In Round 2, Hull have the fewest first preference votes (1), and are the next to be eliminated. The person who voted Hull had Arsenal as their second preference team, so Arsenal receive this vote, and move onto 56 votes.


In Round 3, West Ham, Fulham and Crystal Palace are eliminated*, and so on. The full voting method is viewable in the graphic below (click to enlarge).

Alternative Vote Results

As you can see, Arsenal eventually beat Everton in Round 14, claiming 124 votes. Perhaps not a surprising result – though other methods, as we will see, produce different results that tend to favour teams with very few lower-preference votes.

One of the more interesting things to take from the above graphic is how votes are transferred. When Spurs are eliminated in Round 12, their voters overwhelmingly prefer Everton to either Liverpool or Arsenal. When Liverpool are eliminated a round later, the votes are much more split between Arsenal and Everton – Liverpool supporters (or those who favour Liverpool generally), seem to have no great ill-feeling towards Everton.

As detailed before, these results probably don’t reflect reality, but are an interesting exercise in understanding the preferences of supporters.

*I’ve chosen to eliminate all teams when there is a tie, though I understand/accept there are tiebreakers that are often used.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 24 January 2014 8:21 am

    So the Top 3 would be Arsenal, Liverpool and Machester United but on the next chart it seems that Arsenal and Everton are the only ones left.


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