A reader sends the above map taken from this article showing the ratings of American Idol across 200 US cities. A reader writes:
This one is easy and it's been discussed before, including, I believe by the producers of American Idol themselves. The Southern states by far vote at a much higher rate than the Northern states do. The Northeast has the lowest percentage of Idol voters, the West comes next, with the South in first. When Chris Allen won over Adam Lambert a couple of years ago, Arkansas (his home state) voted more times than the population of the entire state, and I believe it was 2-3 times the population of that state.
Here's my take on why there are more Southerners win on Idol: more Southerners go to church.
Hence more Southerners sing in church, which means more Southern kids get validation for their talent from adults who aren't related to them than kids who perform solely in school choirs. That boost – confidence at performing in front of church crowds that respond well to their performances – I believe gives amateur Southern singers an edge. It's not that they have a lack of opportunities to record; it's that they have an abundance of opportunities to perform. They come better polished.
I have never watched a single episode of Idol and cannot comment on it per se, but the thread reminds me of watching the Miss America pageant during my girlhood in the '60s through the early '90s. It always seemed to me that Southerners dominated that contest, too. A quick check (per Wikipedia, anyway) shows that from 1951 to 2012, Southern girls won nearly 35% of the contests, instead of the 22% statistically expected. Can’t get at the data easily, but I think the if the top ten were studied for the same period it might go as high as 60-75%. And no, I’m not arguing that Southern girls were more physically attractive; I postulate it’s the high value Southern culture places on charm – being pleasing, gracious and entertaining to others.