Ethnic Minorities Are Unfairly Assigned to the Dance-off in Strictly Come Dancing, says University of London Professor

January 14, 2024
1 min read
By the Newsdesk

Thursday, January 4, 2024.

Now in its 21st series,Strictly Come Dancingis a staple in the TV calendar and one of the UK’s most popular, and most diverse, shows. Yet its role has sparked fierce public debate.

The voting audience ofStrictly Come Dancingregularly gives lower votes to pairs made up of BAME participants than the programme’s professional judges do.

The recent fate of Layton Williams, who consistently received top scores from the judges in the 2023 series confirms data analysis of nine series of the show that despite achieving the judge’s approval, BAME contestants invariably have to fight for survival in more bottom two dance-off contests than their non-BAME competitors.

Professor Keon West from Goldsmiths, University of London’s paper ‘Being asked to dance: Evidence of racial bias in audience voting behaviour on the television show Strictly Come Dancing’ analysed data from the 2012 to 2021 series and found that the contestants most likely to be assigned to repeated dance-offs were racial minority celebrities who were paired with racial minority professional dancers and achieved high scores from the judges.

Professor West quantitatively analysed data from Seasons 10 (the one in which the dance-off was reinstated) to Season 19 ofStrictly Come Dancing. The analyses looked at all the couples’ appearances in the dance-off (the awful fate befalling the two least popular dancers) while taking into account their ethnicities and the scores they received from the judges.

The results were clear. Professor West found that “the contestants who were most frequently assigned to the dance-off were racial minority celebrities coupled with racial minority professional dancers who obtained relatively high scores from the judges”.

In other words, both professional dancers and celebrity contestants were penalised for their ethnic minority status, and this penalty wasworse, not better if they danced well. The viewing public simply appeared to be less willing to vote for ethnic minorities..

Despite acknowledging that “the diversity on Strictly Come Dancing is a good thing”, Professor West also cautioned that “diversity alone is not sufficient”, and warned that “viewers who regularly see racial minorities excluded or rejected, even despite evidence of superior skill in a relevant domain, may come to see this treatment of racial minorities as normal or acceptable.”

The research is published online:


Britain: Ethnic Minorities Are Unfairly Assigned to the Dance-off in Strictly Come Dancing






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