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Wednesday, 19 June, 2002, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Women dominate Big Brother voting
Big Brother
Reality shows give viewers a sense of control

Women are much more likely to vote than men in the Big Brother television game show, says an academic researching the programme.

The first preliminary figures from this year's show in the United Kingdom, reveal that the female votes heavily outweigh male votes.

This is not only because more women vote - but because women are 50% more likely to vote more than once in the weekly ballots for evictions.

Craig Phillips
The previous two winners, including Craig Phillips, have been men

And if voting is on the basis of attraction, it could mean bad news for the female contestants hoping to win the cash prize.

The findings have been made by Janet Jones, a lecturer in communications at the University of Aberystwyth, who is examining the programme as part of her PhD studies in interactive television.

Her preliminary figures show that among those planning to vote, women are 50% more likely than men to be voting between two and five times.

Since about 60% of the programme's audience is female - this suggests that perhaps over three-quarters of votes could be cast by women.

The figures are based on a sample of the 14,000 questionnaires returned to her via the official Big Brother website.

A more detailed picture of how and why people use the programme will be known when all these questionnaires are analysed.

Control addicts

Earlier findings have shown that while both male and female respondents were likely to vote, the most dedicated fans were more likely to be women.

Among the show's most ardent fans, who might use the associated website and mobile phone services, she says about 65% are women.

The appeal to women rather than men could reflect differences in how the sexes approach television, she says, with women more likely to engage with stories about relationships which are stretched over a long period of time.

The pattern of multiple voting also suggests a deeper engagement with the programme among women viewers.

Beauty contest?

But it remains uncertain how gender differences will influence the final outcome of the series.

Both previous winners in the United Kingdom have been men - and further analysis could reveal whether people vote for contestants they find attractive or for those with whom they identify.

Earlier findings from Janet Jones's research showed that the programme's addictive appeal owed much to the feelings of control that it gave to viewers.

The continuous access through a digital channel and the internet and the ability to influence the outcome by voting gives viewers feelings of control, she says.

Viewers also say they like the apparent "ordinariness" of the Big Brother setting and the mundanity of the conversation, compared with more exotically-located shows such as Survivor.

There could also be an underlying psychological appeal, she says, with some research suggesting that getting to know characters in the programme gives people a feelgood factor similar to making real friends.

See also:

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24 May 02 | Entertainment
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18 Jun 02 | UK Education
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