Trying to Make Sense of the 101 MissPres Places Poll

Today and tomorrow, we will finally, at long last and after much fretting, announce the list of 101 Mississippi Places To See Before You Die (shortened to 101 Places for convenience). For those of you who weren’t around from start to finish, here’s a short recounting of how we arrived here (for a longer version, click here).

We started gathering suggestions for a proposed listing of 101 Mississippi buildings in December 2010, and since we ended up with over 300, we decided after only the briefest thought to do a series of polls to help narrow down the list.

The first two polls, Natchez and the Coast, went like gang-busters, racking up vote totals in the 4,000s. The third, Northeast, was still eminently presentable but only had a third as many votes (1388). It was then that my non-statistical mind realized that when we got to the end, it was going to be more complex than I thought to put together the various polls in any fair or meaningful way. Inevitably, some regions were going to get the short end of the stick.

My fears only grew as we went on and we had regions like poor “Central” that only reached 339 votes. Who knows for sure why some regions had way more votes than others? Yes, definitely the Natchez and Coast areas have a long history of dedicated preservationists, but so does Columbus, which barely scraped together 400 votes in its Golden Triangle poll. Different times of the year, different levels of internet engagement, one person posting a poll on Facebook and not posting another. All played into the roller-coaster ride.

Here’s a visual representation of the wide range of vote totals over the course of all eleven polls we conducted from January through December 2011.

Once we were in the middle of it though, we just kept on keeping on until the end, and then we turned it all over to a helpful and friendly statistician friend in hopes that he could help make some sense of it.

His first results confirmed our concerns about the uneven voting patterns. If we were to follow a strict “Raw Votes” strategy and just take the top 101 vote-getters, we would have four regions with no properties on the list, while Natchez and the Coast together would have almost 50% of the properties. I know those in Natchez and on the Coast think that’s perfectly acceptable, but this is a statewide blog, and the title of the list is “101 Mississippi Places” not “101 Parts of Mississippi Places.”

Here’s what the Raw Vote count would have given us:

So, our statistician went to work, trying to even the numbers out enough to get representatives from each region, but at the same time not over-doing it. Once he was finished, he gave it back to me to sort through the three other options besides pure raw votes. I went through and added a few properties that simply have to be on the list, and traded off by taking away a few that seemed like they could go either way.

Tomorrow we’ll publish the final list that’s a result of his work and my tweaking.

The final list has this representation for each region:

Still heavy on some regions, but those regions got out the vote and usually had more properties to vote on than the others.

The final list won’t be ranked–there’s too many variables for a ranked list. Instead, it will be listed by region, in the same way we’ve been doing it from the start. Then next week, if I can get it done in that amount of time, I’ll follow up with an online map of the list.

One thing you may need to sit down for: the final list isn’t 101. The new name of the list will just have to be “106 Mississippi Places to See Before You Die.” My scalpel just wasn’t sharp enough to cut it down. I’m too much of a softy for historic places.

Come back tomorrow at 6 AM CST to see the results of all this work!

Categories: 101 MissPres Places, Contest, Historic Preservation

5 replies

  1. Golly, do you folks also do all the polls we had before the primary in Florida today, in South Carolina, etc? What a mass of computations. Thanks for all the work.

    On a much more serious note, is there a super-list of endangered places that could be entitled, “!00 places in Mississippi to see before they die”? If there isn’t, I’m not volunteering to help; however, it seems to me that would be an interesting as list as well.


    • Thankfully for the country, we’re in no way involved in the political polling or vote computations!

      THat’s a fascinating idea for an endangered list of places, and since a couple of our writers have recently been throwing around some ideas for such a list, I’ll pass along your idea. And since we believe in the”You Suggest It, You Own It” system, you may be called upon for help. :-)


      • I don’t know, Malvaney, I’m thinking you guys could only help the country’s polling situation. At least you make the effort to be transparent, admit your bias, and try to arrive at some semi-fair way of addressing the fact that some folks have all the power and others get the short end most of the time. Looking forward to the list tomorrow–I might even roll out at 6 to watch it post.

        Great idea, John!


    • You could look at the biennial Ten Most Endangered Places in Mississippi compiled by the Mississippi Heritage Trust over the years. That constitutes sort of a


  2. I am sure this list is most representative to be arrived at–and 106 sounds good to this grandma–just wish I could still get around like a teenager!!! Thank you for an armchair view of so many beautiful sites.


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