After addressing all 24 categories individually, it is an interesting and meaningful follow-up to consider how they interact. If Lincoln wins the Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, does that make Lincoln’s likelihood of winning Best Picture increase, decrease, or is there no correlation?
A positive correlation story assumes that voters like (or know) certain movies and will vote for those movies in multiple categories; thus, as movies win earlier categories, they are more likely to win later categories. For example, in the most extreme situation, assume voters are either Argo or Lincoln fans. Any voter that votes for Argo (Lincoln) for Best Adapted Screenplay will also vote for Argo (Lincoln) for Best Picture. Thus, if Argo (Lincoln) wins Best Adapted Screenplay it becomes extremely likely to win Best Picture.
A negative correlation story assumes that voters want to spread around their accolades by giving different movies votes in different categories; thus, as movies win earlier categories, they are less likely to win later categories. For example, in the most extreme situation, assume voters like Argo and Lincoln and want them both to have victories. Any voter that votes for Argo (Lincoln) for Best Adapted Screenplay will vote for Lincoln (Argo) for Best Picture. Thus, if Argo (Lincoln) wins Best Adapted Screenplay it becomes extremely likely the other will win Best Picture.
A caveat is that it is very hard to coordinate which direction to split votes. If voters randomly split their vote, both categories would be very close. But, we have an easy option for this year’s Oscars, because the voters did not nominate Argo’s Ben Affleck for Best Director. So, voters who wish to split the prominent Oscars would vote Lincoln’s Steven Spielberg for Best Director and Argo for Best Picture. Of course, a positive correlation story would doom Argo for Best Picture, because the same voters that kept Affleck from even being nominated for Best Director would not vote for Argo for Best Picture.
A total independence story assumes that voters look at each category independently and vote for the nominee they think deserves the award the most.
In politics we assume massively high positive correlation, especially as the campaign enters the finals months. National trends move states upwards or downwards as a pack, rather than the states shifting independently shifting between candidates.
But, the answer is not as clear for the Oscars, where I do not have the historical data to answer this question with any significance; thus, I am opening the question up to you. We have created a game where you can vote on the likelihoods of the independent categories, group of categories, and the overall quantity of Oscars per movie. Please participate, as your answers are crucial to my research and writing on this topic!
This column syndicates with the HuffingtonPost.