Predicting the winner of the Oscars 2016 with social media and crowd sourcing

Another year, another hotly anticipated Academy Awards ceremony approaches us. This year the Oscars have had to contend with controversy …

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Alexis Pratsides


Another year, another hotly anticipated Academy Awards ceremony approaches us. This year the Oscars have had to contend with controversy surrounding the lack of diversity in the nominations and we can see just how integral the role social media will play for the ceremony’s live coverage.

Live tweeting and the likes of Periscope and Meerkat have irrevocably changed the way many people engage with and consume mainstream media.

I’ve been using social media metrics to correctly predict large popularity contests for several years now including the Eurovision Song Context, X Factor and the 86th Academy Awards. In my opinion, there’s a clear correlation between social media support and success in mass voted competitions.

However, the Oscars is slightly different, and as we have seen from #OscarsSoWhite, the voting members don’t always reflect popular opinion.

This year I wanted to conduct a similar study but this time introducing elements of crowd sourcing to the social mix.

Crowd sourcing has matured and although interest peaked in 2014 (according to Google Trends), it’s interesting to see how crowd sourcing, social media and big data can be used in combination to predict competitions or understand user behaviour on a large scale.

We all know that Netflix uses big data to not only provide in-depth personalisation to its customers but also to predict what new shows it should commission.

Without further ado, let’s get into the data analysis. We’ve got predictions for the Best Actress, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Actress, and finally Best Picture.

It’s worth noting that we haven’t used any other award results in our predictions. So although the Golden Globes, BAFTAs and the guild awards are often accurate predictions for Oscars success, we’ve not included them in our data.

Best Actor Predictions

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Based on our score ratings, Leonardo DiCaprio is the runaway winner for the Best Actor gong. This might finally be his year!

DiCaprio scores highest not only on crowd sourced review scores but also in social popularity. He is undoubtedly the most talked about nominee this year and when combined with his review scores means we’ve predicted him winning hands down.

Michael Fassbender comes second and Matt Damon and Eddie Redmayne are joint third. Interestingly, Bryan Cranston comes last even though he’s often regarded to be Leonardo’s closest competition.

DiCaprio has almost won every award he’s been nominated for for his turn as Hugh Glass including the Golden Globes, Screen Actors Guild Awards and the BAFTAs. It’s hard to see him not taking away the statuette with this level of success.

Best Actress Predictions

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Brie Larson is another runaway nomination – clearly leading the other nominations in the race to win her first Academy Award. Like DiCaprio, she has completed the hat-trick of the Golden Globe, SAG Award and BAFTA.

Larson, like DiCaprio, scored first in both our crowd sourced review rating and social popularity. This was no mean feat considering she is nominated against box office gold and academy darling Jennifer Lawrence, who has been nominated for an Oscar four times since 2011. Lawrence also won the Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Comedy or Musical Motion Picture just to make things a little harder to predict.

Cate Blanchett’s name has constantly been a part of the Oscar nominations but it would be a fairly big surprise for her to take home the award.

Larson’s closest competition may come from Lawrence followed by Blanchett but Saoirse Ronan’s performance in Brooklyn has her pegged as many people’s outside choice.

Best Supporting Actress Predictions

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Since the release of The Danish Girl, many have touted Alicia Vikander for Oscars success and she comes up trumps in our predictions. The rest of the field is relatively close together with Rooney Mara, Rachel McAdams and Kate Winslet all within contention.

Vikander comes first for her social popularity but only came second for her crowd sourced review scores. Mara ranks first for her review scores but comes last for her social popularity, meaning she settles for second place.

Mara and McAdams have both failed to win one of the main acting awards with McAdams not nominated for a BAFTA or Golden Globe.

And whilst Vikander can boast the SAG Award as adding clout to her credentials, the other bigger winner this year has been Winslet. She has won both the Golden Globe and BAFTA for Best Supporting Actress and she could do the triple and snatch the Oscar from Vikander.

However, the Academy has the tendency to award the Best Supporting Actress Oscar to first-time nominees and often for break-out roles. In the last 10 years, seven of the previous winners have been first time nominees. Only Anne Hathaway, Melissa Leo and Penelope Cruz had been nominated previously but all were first time winners.

Winslet appears in the middle of the pack for both social popularity and crowd sourced review scores – her recent roles in the Divergent series negatively impacting her scores in our data analysis.

This suggests Winslet might not be a favourite with the Academy members to win this gong but she may just pull off a surprise on the night.

Best Supporting Actor Predictions

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This may prove to be the most difficult to predict and there isn’t a single clear winner. Tom Hardy comes out top with our predictions but this is probably the most open award so far.

Hardy scores first in our social popularity rankings – starring in two of the year’s biggest films (The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road) certainly helps. He also appears second for the crowd sourcing score where The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road have been met with critical acclaim.

But the Academy isn’t a mass-voted popularity contest so he may be more of an outside bet.

Sylvester Stallone won the Golden Globe which many people see is the biggest Oscar success signal but Mark Rylance won the BAFTA. The SAG award went to Idris Elba, who didn’t even get a nomination for the Academy Awards so who knows who will carry home the Oscar.

Best Picture Predictions

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Mad Max: Fury Road comes out top and leads our crowd sourcing popularity and social media ranks. Mad Max came out first in nearly all of our ranking metrics and has clearly been a popular choice for social media users with big scores on YouTube and Facebook.

George Miller’s film might have an advantage here as its audience may be more digitally inclined giving it a heavier weighting than the other nominees.

The film has also been one of the most popular at the box office, taking a total of $376.7 million. Only two of the nominated films have made more: The Revenant ($381.6 million) and The Martian (the nomination with the biggest box office haul at $620.1 million).

This year we have a seen big step up in terms of social media usage of the nominated films with many boasting strong digital presence. Even films like Room and Brooklyn have developed digital marketing strategies which wouldn’t have been so sophisticated a few years ago.

Unsurprisingly there’s a big gulf between the biggest films of the year and the smaller releases.

Although it ranks first here, it would be a surprise if Mad Max: Fury Road actually wins Best Picture. And although it has 10 nominations in total (second only to The Revenant’s 12), it’s more likely to sweep the technical categories than Best Picture.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s The Revenant comes second in our rankings and also boasts some award season pedigree picking up the Best Picture/Film award at the BAFTAs, Golden Globes and Directors Guild of America Awards. Only the Big Short (which ranks 4th) has picked up another of the big awards at the Producers Guild of America Awards.

Potentially, Inarritu’s The Revenant could combine award season success with social popularity and crowd sourced ratings to take home the statuette.

But the Academy Awards aren’t without upsets and who knows if there’ll be another Crash come Sunday.


This is a relatively controlled study. But what could social media and big data mean for pollsters and marketers?

2015’s General Election saw nearly all opinion polls place the Conservatives and Labour neck and neck. But as we now know, this was completely wrong. Many questions were raised and whilst we wait for the final General Election Opinion Poll Inquiry to be released in March, could social media play a more significant role in predicting political polls?

Potentially. Although you’d need to take into consideration the differences in demographics between social media users and the general population. And then also the differences in behaviour between being active on social media and voting.

Just because someone isn’t active on social media doesn’t mean they’re not really keen voters. And vice-versa, someone who is extremely active digitally may not actually vote on what they’re discussing or engaging with.

Which is why we’ve added a crowd sourcing element to our analysis this year to try and perceive wider opinion trends.

But ultimately, the winners of the Oscars will be selected by nearly 6,000 members, whose opinions aren’t necessarily a reflection of popular feeling.

Predicted Oscars 2016 Winners Recap

Award category Predicted Winner Predicted Closest Nominee Notes
Best Picture Mad Max:Fury Road The Revenant Mad Max: Fury Road’s social appeal may not transcend into Academy votes.
Best Actor Leonardo DiCaprio Michael Fassbender It’s hard to see anyone beating DiCaprio at the moment.
Best Actress Brie Larson Jennifer Lawrence Larson also looks to be a shoe-in for the statuette.
Best Supporting Actress Alicia Vikander Rooney Mara Another difficult one to call. Vikander may have a battle on her hands against Mara or Kate Winslet.
Best Support Actor Tom Hardy Mark Ruffalo Most unpredictable of the awards we looked at but will Hardy’s turn in The Revenant and Mad Max: Fury Road be enough?

[Main image credit: The Oscars 2016]

Created by

Alexis Pratsides

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