Friday, December 31, 2010

Survey Results!

Today, we’ll take a look at the results of that survey and look at what we already know about the online Buffyverse fandom. I’ll give you a bit of time to talk amongst yourselves about the data in our comments section or on your own forums. Next week, I’ll talk a bit about what you wrote in the survey text box. Some of you wrote a lot!

Suffice it to say, the results here are promising enough that I’d love to do this for each of Whedon’s works, if you’re willing to keep taking the surveys. Are you?

I never imagined that we’d get more than 700 surveys in response to our little blog post. The prior version of this type of survey featured less than 25 respondents. The biggest survey of Buffy’s online fandom was done by Claudia Rebaza in November 2006. She got more than 1,500 or so responses and its results are featured in Buffy and Angel Conquer the Internet. It’s a fascinating read.

She describes the online Buffyverse fans:

• They are young, white, college-educated American women, with just 26 percent of respondents describing themselves as men.
o Whedon’s said that the broadcast audience starting in season two was 26 years-old on average.
o Rebaza refers to them as middle class, even though 52% were below US average income. She justifies her description by noting the high levels of college students in her survey. I would say that the data supports that they are culturally middle class.

• They are heterosexual but open to other sexualities.
o 15% describe themselves as a sexual orientation minority. That’s more than quadruple double the national average in US and Canada.

• They’re heavy readers.
o They would rank in the top 16 % of US reading public, by NEA standards.
o It’s not a surprise that more than a quarter of her respondents had graduate degrees.

• The online Buffyverse fan has a life: 85% voted in the 2004 election and roughly half participate in a political or social organization.
• They tend to be very fannish, with 2/3 having five or more fannish interests in their lifetime
• In books, films and TV, they prefer speculative fiction (fantasy 74% and sci-fi 86%) to romances (31%) and westerns (10%).

That leads us to the question of who took this survey. Mostly, you are Whedonesque. Within one day of Whedonesque linking to it, we had 500 surveys filled out. We had 2,000+ page views from that site in December. Since Kristen’s so good at social media, another 250+ page views last month came from people who follow us on Twitter or Facebook or use Google reader. Other web sites like and also picked it up and some 75+ page views last month came from their netizens. Still, it’s fair to say that the results dominantly measure how the community that populates Whedonesque views the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series.

Rebaza found an international fandom in her survey, with 1/3 of her respondents from outside the US. Our page views from last month were dominantly from the US, with the UK, Canada, Australia, Germany, Russia, Netherlands, France, Sweden and Japan rounding out the top 10. It’s fair to say that this was an international survey, with 31 percent of our audience coming from outside the US in December.

Also, some people actually stuffed the ballot box, filling out multiple surveys using different IP addresses. Perhaps it was because you were directed back to WJ? I’d ask that you not submit multiple surveys: it just delays the release of the results.

Rebaza’s survey focuses on identifying who the survey takers are and what they do in the fandom; it’s a census of the Buffyverse online fandom. I’m not really interested in that as a media studies professor. If I were, I’d be in communication studies. I’m more interested in how films and television series shape viewers and what readings viewers construct in response. That’s why I didn’t even ask for your basic demographics like age, race, sex, etc. Joss would say that I was interested in the Bring Your Own Subtext principle. Not having that identifying information for this survey may invalidate or limit the results in your mind, but at least now you know the info from a prior Buffyverse fandom survey.

What Are the Values You Perceive in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series?

I’d like to start with a little controversy. The surveyed had little consensus on two major issues: whether the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series depicts the importance of independence (self-reliance, self-sufficiency) and salvation (being saved, eternal life).

Why do you think that is? For salvation, does it have to do more with the text, your beliefs or the author’s own beliefs? With independence, did you find that value to be in conflict with or overwhelmed by the value of true friendship, which 93 percent of you rated as being always or almost always represented in the series?

Now to the main points of agreement:

The surveyed found that the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series’ most frequently represented values were true friendship, courage, taking care of loved ones, working for the welfare of others, tolerance, emotional support, freedom, self-respect, and personal assistance support. Were there particularly meaningful or notable examples of these values for you? Do you recall the series influencing you to apply these values to your own life?


 In each of the above graphs, you’ll note that there’s a similar rising shape. That indicates a certain level of consensus on those questions. What’s interesting is that there wasn’t a similar level of consensus on what values the series never or almost never represented on the series. I’ve identified the values that you feel are not frequently represented in the series by looking for a bell curve peaking at a #2 answer.

The surveyed found that the Buffy the Vampire Slayer television series rarely or somewhat rarely represents a comfortable life, cleanliness, obedience, politeness, social recognition, or national security.

Why do you think that there was more consensus on the values depicted than on the values that weren’t embraced?

What’s next are the values thought to be often depicted by the series, with the bell curve peaking at the four or at a point shared by the four and five: capability, forgiveness, honesty, imagination (daring and creativity), independence, being loving, responsibility, a sense of accomplishment, a world at peace, equality, mature love, wisdom, listening support, emotional challenge support, task appreciation support, and task challenge support.

Finally, we have the values that were seen to be sometimes depicted on the series:

The values peaking at a point shared by the four and five were: ambition, cheerfulness, intellectual, self-control, an exciting life, happiness, inner harmony, and reality confirmation support.

The values peaking strongly at the midpoint or shared equally between 2 and 3: cheerful, logical, a world of beauty, pleasure, and financial assistance.

I’d like to mention a few things at the end. 
KwikSurveys doesn’t itself use or sell to a 3rd party any data collected. Nobody asked about that, but I thought I should make it clear. Of course, I have no idea who you are or what your contact info is, so fear me not.

Finally, one caveat about the results. Rebaza warns against taking surveys like hers and ours as gospel. Any profile of the typical fan is going to be incomplete, a partial description of the whole. Studies of fans are often studies of “social fans” or those who make their presence known. It’s awfully hard to get a hold of the lurker and the casual viewer. Online surveys are still affected by economic and educational biases based on access to computers and leisure time. Knowing these limitations does not invalidate it as a partial portrait or its reflection of some peoples’ true circumstances. Think of these two surveys as a synecdoche of the views and activities of the fandom which itself is a portion of the ultimately unmeasurable total audience for the series.


  1. The two points of disagreement (self-reliance and being saved) probably depends largely on one's own world view affecting one's interpretation of the story of the Buffyverse.

    In the case of self-reliance, I would argue that Buffy is not self-reliant and that this is the point of her story. "One girl in all the world" with (as Spike points out) "family and friends. It is this that makes Buffy different from prior Slayers: she is not alone. And indeed she carries this to its logical conclusion by activating the potential Slayers en masse at the end of the series.

    In regards to being saved, since I do not personally believe in eternal life (or the existence of a soul) I am probably disinclined to see this in the story as presented on screen- projecting my own thoughts onto the show. Someone who is religious might well see a very different picture. I do think that there is some subtext of there being some eternal life, such as Buffy described to Spike after being brought back from death by the Scobies. Some of the discussion around Angel's soul could also be reasonably viewed as related to this.

    This is part of what makes Buffy such a great series (and Angel, too).

  2. The article I linked to on a/theology in the Buffyverse deals with the issue of being saved quite well, I think. It argues that the series presents an indeterminate and insubstantial view of God. To me, this makes sense, given the nature of network television, which has to not offend people of many faiths, but also sincere authors who, as in the case of Joss Whedon, are atheists fascinated by redemption. And, after all, you can't believe in something you already know. Still, it is a difference from the older school vampire stories, in which the existence of vampires was definitive proof of the existence of God, not least through the efficacy of the cross and holy water. Of course, the iconography of vampire stories has changed over the years, and that does impact how we read the divine in the Buffyverse Take a look at this article for more on the icons of vampire hunters:

  3. Your poll was outstanding and a great resource for Buffyverse studies, especially now after Season 8 makes one of the top placed elements "forgiveness" of vital importance. It would be interesting to see how "forgiveness" stands up after Season 8.

    By this time, I think that your poll probably does reflect very much on the current fan - primarily, only the devoted fans or those very interested in the series are active now. Buffy and Angel continue to be some of the best content ever shown on television as a series.

    Buffy Tube administrator

  4. Thanks! I'm not caught up yet in the Season 8 comics, as I'm behind by two hard cover books. I definitely agree that it's a measure of the active fan now, rather than those who've moved on. I'll be curious to see how this works with Firefly.

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