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From the election page:

                 Previous    Current    Increase
Voters eligible  43,778      72,908     66.5%
Visited          14,130      17,866     26.4%
Voted            4,970       5,004      0.68% (!!!)

There's a significant increase of eligible voters compared to last time around, but the increase in visits was less noticeable. And the increase in actual voters is pretty much insignificant.

I wasn't here in the last election, but what could've caused this sharp decrease in participation?

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30  
The candidates may have turned people off –  random Nov 22 '11 at 20:53
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It's an odd-numbered year. There's always lower voter turnout in odd-numbered years. (Wait... did we just do this in January??) –  Bill the Lizard Nov 22 '11 at 20:54
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@random Feelings: Hurt ='( –  NullUserException อ_อ Nov 22 '11 at 21:00
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They're all still reading the Town Hall Chat digests. –  Tim Stone Nov 22 '11 at 22:13
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It would be interesting to see (anonymously obviously) how big the intersection is between the 4970 voters of the previous one and the 5004 of the current one. –  Flexo Nov 23 '11 at 11:31
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7 Answers

up vote 44 down vote accepted

I can offer my gut feel here:

  • In the previous election we had a simple list of nominees that was displayed it all fit within the fold, it took me ages to scroll through the huge blurbs this time to even find the candidates. I would strongly recommend redesigning the voting portion, we could display a simple list and then use a lightbox to bring up the mega blurbs.

  • In the previous election we blogged twice, once before the primary a second time when the voting started. I felt it was better promoted.

  • The banner vanished half way through the voting process, which happened during a weekend. Many users do not even visit the site on a weekend and probably missed the fact it happened.

None of this is based on any scientific data, it is based on my Colbert gut

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+1 as your gut is spot on –  davidsleeps Nov 22 '11 at 23:10
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The election page was a giant tl;dr... –  user7116 Nov 23 '11 at 3:23
    
I'd bet the banner doesn't matter nearly as much as the tl;dr, people are really good at filtering banner-ish things out (as a rule, subconsciously). The jump in visitors but not voters sort of indicates that. –  Kevin Montrose Nov 23 '11 at 5:03
    
+1 for waffles' guts, plus @Kevin's subconcious :) –  Benjol Nov 23 '11 at 5:41
    
I only read ~4 of the posts. I skimmed through most of them. –  muntoo Nov 23 '11 at 6:31
    
+1: I read the nominations, and voted in the primary and had every intention of voting in the election. Didn't visit over the weekend, but was on most of the day Mon-Weds. The election slipped my mind over the weekend, and nothing grabbed my attention for it afterwards. I think there were more assertive banners for it last year may be (across the width of the page)? –  Jon Egerton Jun 21 '12 at 13:57
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Too many candidates; too much to read. Set a word limit/set a stricter word limit.

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5  
+1 That's why I kept my nomination short; if you want to know how I am, my answers on Meta and my activity on Stack Overflow are the best indicator of that. –  George Stocker Nov 22 '11 at 20:56
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There were 56 candidates in the last election vs 28 in this one. Your argument is invalid. –  NullUserException อ_อ Nov 22 '11 at 20:57
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Some definitely went overboard with pitches that were 5x longer than everyone else's –  random Nov 22 '11 at 20:58
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Agreed. Some of the nominations were ridiculous. The essays plus the length of the comments make that page look pretty intimidating at first glance. Wouldn't be surprised if most people just went tl;dr. –  Brandon Nov 22 '11 at 20:58
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@NullUserExceptionอ_อ I don't think so. I was running in this election and I didn't read any of the nominations past the '2 paragraph' mark. I didn't do it last election either. If you're running for Moderator, I should already know your name on the site. I should know how you act and what you believe in. If you have to spend a page telling me these things, it means you haven't been explicit enough in your actions. –  George Stocker Nov 22 '11 at 20:58
    
@GeorgeStocker I was going to severely trim my nomination once it went into the election phase, but they locked editing right when It got to the election phase. –  NullUserException อ_อ Nov 22 '11 at 21:01
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The longest pitch won. You can't explain that. –  mmyers Nov 22 '11 at 21:06
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I definitely went tl;dr when I saw the noms page, and I actually did give a darn about the whole thing. –  Aarthi Nov 22 '11 at 21:07
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Flippin' elections, how do they work? –  Matthew Read Nov 22 '11 at 21:08
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@mmyers multiple possible explanations. Given less than 1/3 of people who visited the page voted, voters were already differentially selected to be people willing to read long pitches. Could even make an argument to say that person was advantaged by the fact that so many people were turned off completely. But most importantly, there's probably only a weak-nonexistent correlation between pitch length and quality. The question at hand is why people didn't vote, not why they didn't vote for X. –  Duncan Babbage Nov 22 '11 at 21:10
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@mmyers I kept scrolling but didn't see any other posts. Do you mean to tell me there were more than three candidates? –  Bill the Lizard Nov 22 '11 at 21:21
    
@BilltheLizard: chat.stackoverflow.com/transcript/message/1931158#1931158 –  mmyers Nov 22 '11 at 21:22
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I sure as heck went tl;dr after skimming about two nominations. –  Ben Brocka Nov 22 '11 at 22:39
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I did my best to keep it short. Sorry that I couldn't. That's all I can say. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Nov 22 '11 at 23:20
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I think the visibility of the elections page might be part of the reason. It was only featured in the top banner for part of the election. The rest of the time, you pretty much had to know the URL to find it.

I think it's especially bad that it wasn't visible at all during the last day or so of the election. People often delay doing things like voting until the last moment.

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That was true in the last election as well. It's a function of the banner timer (stays up for a maximum of 48 hours). –  Robert Harvey Nov 22 '11 at 20:58
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@RobertHarvey There also wasn't a blog post about it this time. –  George Stocker Nov 22 '11 at 20:59
    
@RobertHarvey: Ah ok, I haven't really been active that long so I don't know how visible it was back then. –  hammar Nov 22 '11 at 21:01
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Every eligible (all 72,480 of them) voter got a message as well once voting started. –  Kevin Montrose Nov 22 '11 at 21:08
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@Kevin Montrose I guess that proves that people don't read notifications. –  George Stocker Nov 22 '11 at 21:10
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@KevinMontrose: Really? I didn't notice that. Was it in that same orange popup bar that I also get every time I get a badge, and thus have been conditioned to dismiss without reading? –  hammar Nov 22 '11 at 21:11
    
The notification was below the logo. I think it was similar to the message that is displayed when there is a maintenance. I don't think it is something users could close. –  user162697 Nov 22 '11 at 21:22
    
@Siva: I don't think Kevin was talking about the maintenance message, since I already mentioned that in my answer. –  hammar Nov 22 '11 at 21:25
    
I guess my bad. That's the only message that got me to the election page. –  user162697 Nov 22 '11 at 21:26
    
@Siva: Yep, that's the one I used also. My point is that it wasn't visible for the whole election. In particular, I think it was only visible during the weekend, which may mean that people who don't use SO on weekends might easily have forgotten about it, even if they did see and dismiss a popup notification. –  hammar Nov 22 '11 at 21:36
    
@hammer That is yes, the one that Kevin was referring to. –  Grace Note Nov 22 '11 at 22:23
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Doesn't the data suggest the answer? There were a lot of new eligible voters, but the new ones simply didn't care.

New users probably feel the effects of moderation less. I'm a new, eligible voter, but I didn't care enough about moderators to vote for one. What is the reason for picking one moderator over another? I don't know; I rarely see moderators doing anything.

Questions are closed/opened/deleted by vote usually. I almost never see a moderator vote closing a question on SO. I rarely see moderators actually doing moderation.

So who am I to judge what it takes to be a good moderator?

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You rarely see moderators doing anything because most of their work is janitorial. But it's a good answer nonetheless. –  NullUserException อ_อ Nov 22 '11 at 22:09
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@NullUserExceptionอ_อ: I understand why I don't see them doing stuff. But that's my point: it's hard to care about something that you don't really understand or see happening. –  Nicol Bolas Nov 22 '11 at 22:13
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Once you've got access to 10k tools it is a lot easier to see the activities moderators take -- especially if you're reviewing the /review page about two minutes behind a moderator, it's easy to find "deleted by ♦" instances. –  sarnold Nov 23 '11 at 4:10
    
The flag weight page (which didn't exist last election I think) adds quite a lot of transparency to the flagging process and allowed users to see mods take action on the flag –  Yi Jiang Nov 23 '11 at 12:13
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Make voting mandatory for eligible people (like they do here in Australia :D)...Maybe you could be blocked from doing anything until you vote or risk a fine!

But you would need the ability to dummy vote if such a model was implemented and then there'd be unfairness if you weren't at the top...still, the numbers would be higher!

Edit
This wasn't supposed to be a serious suggestion...but ultimately, people vote either if they have to...or they want to...I wanted to vote, and did...

perhaps these sort of answers can only be posted on fridays :(

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8  
This is a terrible idea. Forcing people who don't care enough about the election to vote would give us worse results. –  NullUserException อ_อ Nov 22 '11 at 22:11
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@Null then don't complain about low turn out- it's exactly what you wanted...the people who cared, voted. –  davidsleeps Nov 22 '11 at 22:12
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Alternately we could have a random number generator randomly distribute votes for all people that don't manually vote. You'd probably yield similar or more fair results. –  Ben Brocka Nov 22 '11 at 22:50
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Ugh! I'm gonna have to strike Australia from the list of places I run to after the zombie apocalypse. I hope you guys don't force the undead to vote as well! –  Won't Nov 22 '11 at 22:53
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@ಠ_ಠWon't if the zombies are over the age of 18 then yes, they are required to vote...maybe age is an irrelevant property of a zombie though... –  davidsleeps Nov 22 '11 at 23:09
    
What's dummy voting? The same as donkey voting, or voting to say "None of the above, I just came for the sausage sizzle." –  Andrew Grimm Nov 23 '11 at 6:25
    
@Andrew, yep...and that raises a good point. A sausage sizzle is mandatory... –  davidsleeps Nov 23 '11 at 6:36
    
Mandatory voting works as long as there is a "Non of the above" box you can tick to "actively" abstain. –  ChrisF Nov 23 '11 at 11:35
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I would have been quite happy with nearly everyone who put their hat in the ring.

I don't know how many total moderators we have now -- nor how busy our moderators are -- but accepting only four of the candidates (and worse, voting for only three of them) didn't feel right.

I nearly didn't bother voting -- what with being happy with almost everyone -- but then I wanted to make sure my top-two-favorites at least had my +1.

Did anyone decide to not bother because everyone seemed Good Enough?

Full list of moderators -- as of today, anyway.

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The voting data is only half the story. After the highly visible nominee scores in the primary, it was very evident who was gonna become moderator. So certainly another reason to care less.. –  mario Nov 23 '11 at 4:03
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@mario Half of the elected moderators weren't leading the primaries. Primaries are a possible indication of how votes might go, but leading the primaries by no means guarantees being elected. –  Anna Lear Nov 23 '11 at 4:06
    
@AnnaLear: Of course. But as believable vote approximation it might have played into peoples expectations. (A bit like ballot surveys a week before elections further nonvoters.) –  mario Nov 23 '11 at 4:12
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To add to the already excellent answers, I wonder if this doesn't also show the lack of 'engagement' of a lot of users. That is, they really are just 'users', and don't at all feel themselves to be members of a community (yeah, yeah, I know, StackOverflow is not a social network... so what are you doing here?!)

It would interesting to know if there is any correlation between people actually voting and meta rep :)

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I assume that the original people who joined knew the people who founded the website (Atwood, Spolsky, etc.) and view it as a community, whereas the newer people join just view SO as a website. –  Andrew Grimm Nov 23 '11 at 6:29
    
@Andrew I'm fairly new to SO, but I view it as a community =) I actually really like that aspect. –  jadarnel27 Nov 23 '11 at 13:26
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