This page provides statistics about the number of people nominating for Hugo Awards over time.
There's an excellent George Flynn article titled “Hugo Voting: Let's Look at the Record (Again),” giving all sorts of statistics about numbers related to Hugo voting, covering the years 1971 through 1999. (Flynn had written an earlier article in 1988, and the original version of this one in 1995, but the latest revised version came in '99.)
In 2007, I collected some related data and turned it into the first version of the table below. I don't have enough data to fill in all the boxes in Flynn's table 1, but I do have some of it. I replaced some of Flynn's columns (that I don't have data for) with others of interest to me: for both nominating and final ballots, I'm including the number of electronic ballots cast, and the percentage of total ballots that were cast electronically.
In 2015, I decided to convert my original post into a page that would be easier to update over time, and I added some numbers from the years since 2007.
|Year||Location||Valid Nominating Ballots||Valid Final Ballots||# of Cat.|
|Total||Elec||% Elec||Total||Elec||% Elec|
|2005*||Glasgow||546 (PDF)||436||80%||684 (PDF)||552||81%||15|
(* = overseas WorldCon, following Flynn's convention)
 Number of categories includes the Campbell Award, the Lodestar Award, and any other not-a-Hugo-but-part-of-the-Hugo-voting-process awards), per Flynn's convention.
 All 2000 numbers may be off by 20 or 30; phrasing re invalid ballots is unclear.
 Not quite accurate; that's total electronic ballots, probably including a few invalid ones.
Here's a graph of the nominating ballots per year:
And a graph of the final ballots per year:
In 1999, Flynn noted that “since the mid-'70s the ‘normal’ Hugo nominating-ballot count has been fairly stable at around 500,” with the exception of overseas WorldCons and a few others. The above data suggests that, after a lull in the late '90s (when the average was about 450), the number of nominating ballots suddenly went way up in 2002 and, after another lull, mostly continued to go up through 2016.
Does anyone have data about the total number of nominating ballots in 2004, or about the number of them submitted electronically in '03, '04, or '07, or later? I remember discussions from the early 2000s when some of us were sure that nominating and voting numbers would go way up with the advent of electronic voting; that didn't happen for years to the degree that we were hoping, but I suspect it was a factor in later steep rises.
I'm also missing info about numbers of final ballots for some years. I'd be grateful to anyone who has data—ideally with links to official or semi-official sources.
Notes about the late 2010s and the Puppies
The number of nominating ballots peaked in 2016, but dropped a lot in 2017 and again in 2018, and slightly in 2019. Even so, 2019 had the sixth-highest number of nominating ballots ever.
Below is a possibly-too-Puppies-focused narrative about the numbers in the second half of the 2010s. The short version is that (imo) the backlash against the Puppies started in 2014, grew enormously in 2015, and dropped back down after that, but has left us still with higher numbers than for most of the history of the awards.
In 2013, before the Puppies, we had a record high number of nominating ballots, and a not-quite-record-high number of final ballots.
In 2014, the first year of the Sad Puppies, the number of nominating ballots went up by 580, over 40% higher than the previous year. Hard to tell how many of those new nominators were Puppies; that was also the year of the London Worldcon, which I feel like got a lot of attention and interest, so there may’ve been a lot of new non-Puppies nominators. I think some analyses suggested that there were only about 200 Puppies nominators. But they had a substantial effect on the ballot.
So that year also began the backlash against the Puppies. There were almost twice as many final ballots as there had been the previous year, and the Puppies’ nominees were roundly defeated.
(Another possible factor that year: The Hugo voter packet included ebooks of the entire Wheel of Time series, which may have led some people to become members to get copies of that series.)
In 2015, the number of nominating ballots went up again, by about 200. But that was the year of the Rabid Puppies dominating the ballot.
The backlash was huge. Over 2,300 more people voted in the final vote than had voted in the previous record-high year; a 65% increase in the number of final voters. That was the year that No Award won in multiple categories.
And in 2016, all of those new voters were eligible to nominate, and a lot of them did. Which I suspect is part of why 2016 saw almost double the number of nominating voters compared to the previous year’s record high.
But in 2016, the Rabid Puppies’ slate choices weren’t as outrageous, and the backlash died down somewhat, and at least 900 people who nominated didn’t vote on the final ballot.
And as usual, not all of those who voted on the final ballot that year nominated the next year.
So by 2019, a lot of the people who got involved to oppose the Puppies have fallen away from the process. But even so, in 2018 and 2019 we had substantially more nominating ballots than in any year before 2014.
- The official Hugo Awards site, which provided several of the abovelinked PDFs.
- SmofInfo.com, which contains a bunch of useful material for people who want to run WorldCons, and also may be of interest to anyone interested in historical WorldCon info. There are Excel spreadsheets showing WorldCon size over time, for example, and hotel rates, and financial and business meeting reports, and so on.
- WSFS Hugo Voting Reports, providing full nomination details and final-ballot details for most of the past several WorldCons.
- Nippon 2007 press release, giving some numbers about nominations.