Voting history and draw positions and impacts on Eurovision Final 2012 voting patterns

Adrian Kavanagh, 26th May 2012

Other than song quality and the impact of song contest performances, there are two key factors that may impact on a country’s result in a Eurovision song contest – their ability to draw on reliable support from either “friends and neighbours” or diaspora voting and the position their act will be performing in at that contest. In this post, I will look at these factors and tease out what these might mean in terms of the points this year’s Eurovision finalists might hope to win based on these factors.

Friends and neighbours voting/diaspora voting: During the televoting era, countries have shown a remarkable consistency in terms of the other countries that they vote for. This is probably most evident in the case of Greece and Cyprus’s tendency to award each other douze points in Eurovision contests and more recently in terms of the voting relationship between Turkey and Azerbaijan. Similar trends can be observed for most other European contestants, including Ireland who showed a remarkable consistency during the “full-blown” televoting era in awarding its high Eurovision points to Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and the United Kingdom as well as to Denmark and Sweden, especially from 2005 onwards. Such has been the consistency in Eurovision countries’ voting patterns during the 2000s that one can easily suggest the existence of different, geographically-based, voting blocs, which tend to award especially high numbers of points to certain countries (not necessarily always other bloc members) and from which bloc members can expect to attain their highest Eurovision points tallies. The impact of such “bloc voting” has been tempered in recent years by the reintroduction of a professional jury voting element as part of a 50-50 voting system involving televoting and jury votes. But given that televoting still accounts for half of the total votes being awarded by countries, past voting histories of countries will give a strong indicator as to the destination of their Eurovision votes in the 2012 Final, and also suggests that some countries – due to an ability to score highly within one, or more, Eurovision voting blocs – will start the contest at somewhat of an advantage to countries such as France, Ireland, Spain, Cyprus and the United Kingdom, who have struggled to win the big Eurovision points over the past decade and half.

To analyse this, I studied, and ranked, the average number of points awarded by the 42 countries (the 26 finalists and 16 unlucky semi-finalists) since the introduction of televoting in 1998 to the 26 countries that are taking part in this year’s final. This is to determine which countries that country is likely to award their 12 points, 10 points…and 1 point to in this year,s contest. Hence, in the case of Ireland, the Irish 12 points vote is expected to go to Lithuania (with an average points tally of 8.3 from Ireland over the years), the 2012 finalist that has enjoyed the highest average support level from France in Eurovision contests, followed by Denmark (7.3 points average) who get awarded 10 points, United Kingdom (5.2) who get awarded 8 points…and so on. The predicted points destination for all the other 41 voting countries are estimated in a similar manner. Once the points are combined, the final points tallies for the competing countries in the 2012 Final, based on past voting history, are predicted as follows:

  1. United Kingdom 39
  2. Hungary 66
  3. Albania 71
  4. Lithuania 43
  5. Bosnia and Herzegovina 136
  6. Russia 139
  7. Iceland 70
  8. Cyprus 32
  9. France 3
  10. Italy 180
  11. Estonia 52
  12. Norway 116
  13. Azerbaijan 220
  14. Romania 100
  15. Denmark 96
  16. Greece 188
  17. Sweden 133
  18. Turkey 151
  19. Spain 32
  20. Germany 47
  21. Malta 43
  22. FYR Macedonia 68
  23. Ireland 24
  24. Serbia 159
  25. Ukraine 160
  26. Moldova 78

The figures above offers a prediction as to the number of points that countries would win if solely based on the previous voting patterns of the 42 countries which will be voting in tonight’s Final. Interestingly, on the basis of these figures alone we would be returning again to Baku for next year’s Eurovision.

Eyes on the prize again? Azerbaijan’s Sabina Babayeva

However it is worth noting that these figures will be skewed in favour of successful countries who have recently joined, or returned to, the contest – an obvious case here would be Azerbaijan who only entered Eurovision for the first time back in 2008 and have managed Top 10 results in all of these contests, but Italy (ranked second) would be an even starker example in that Italy has only competed in one contest since 1997 and this was a contest that Italy finished second in (mainly due to an exceptionally high vote from the voting juries). Leaving those concerns aside, these figures here do underpin the fact that past voting histories do give certain countries a significant advantage in terms of winning points in Eurovision contests, as well as of course in terms of being able to qualify for finals.

The strong concentration of “new” Eurovision countries amongst the top echelons here is readily evident (as well as the number of Eastern European countries) – indeed some of the high ranked countries only have a small number of Eurovision contests “under their belts” and it could be argued that their points tally as such reflects the fact that they have not been in sufficient contests for their high tallies to be offset by lower points tallies in less successful contests for these countries. The absence of Armenia from the 2012 contest also has an impact in that a number of countries (notably Turkey, Azerbaijan, Greece and Serbia) are picking up more ‘diaspora’ votes from Western European countries, such as Germany and France, that they might have expected to as indeed happened in last year’s final when Armenia and Turkey were not in competition.

That said, with jury voting and with the potential for very strong songs/performances to impact on televoters, it is possible for countries to defy their past voting histories and attain results that are very much against the run of what would have been expexted on their previous pattern of results. This has already been evident in this year’s contest – voting histories suggested low semi final rankings for countries such as Cyprus, Lithuania and Ireland, but all these countries succeeded in making it to this year’s final. So voting history/bloc voting is only one element of the different factors that help determine a Eurovision winner, or even a strong Eurovision result/high placing.

Draw position: As noted in an earlier post, vote patterns for past contests suggest that a country’s draw position can (in part) determine how well they do in that contest, with certain positions in the draw (generally later) associated with a stronger likelihood of success/higher average points level as against other draw positions (generally those in the earlier part of the show). A late Eurovision draw position offers a competing country a distinct advantage, as indeed proves to be the case for Jedward this year. But there are subtle variants within different parts of the draw. In the earlier part of the draw entries drawn in the 5th, 7th, 8th and 1st draw positions have done significantly better than those drawn in the 2nd (the veritable draw of death), 4th, 9th and 6th positions. Similarly in the latter part of the draw, it is evident that a draw position near the end, but not at the end, is the most advantageous draw to get. It is better to be on three songs before the end than in the very last draw position – a notable difference from the trend for semi-finals in which the last draw position proved to be the most advantageous (possibly due to the generally smaller number of countries in a semi-final – the 2007 marathon semi final being a notable exception). Based solely on draw position we would be off to Madrid for the 2012 contest – the 2011 results would read as follows:

  1. United Kingdom 76
  2. Hungary 45
  3. Albania 64
  4. Lithuania 48
  5. Bosnia and Herzegovina 101
  6. Russia 63
  7. Iceland 97
  8. Cyprus 78
  9. France 67
  10. Italy 123
  11. Estonia 110
  12. Norway 100
  13. Azerbaijan 80
  14. Romania 93
  15. Denmark 76
  16. Greece 90
  17. Sweden 104
  18. Turkey 134
  19. Spain 95
  20. Germany 105
  21. Malta 124
  22. FYR Macedonia 90
  23. Ireland 114
  24. Serbia 145
  25. Ukraine 97
  26. Moldova 115

It is notable that in the bulk of cases draw positions are not conveying an unsurpassable advtantage, with not much more than 40 points separating the countries ranked between 4th and 20th place, although the significant advantage of a later draw and disadvantage of an earlier draw (especially draw position No. 2) become readily apparent here.

If the predicted points based on voting history and draw positions are combined the following result for the 2011 Final might be predicted:

  1. United Kingdom 52
  2. Hungary 56
  3. Albania 67
  4. Lithuania 46
  5. Bosnia and Herzegovina 119
  6. Russia 101
  7. Iceland 84
  8. Cyprus 55
  9. France 35
  10. Italy 152
  11. Estonia 81
  12. Norway 108
  13. Azerbaijan 150
  14. Romania 97
  15. Denmark 86
  16. Greece 139
  17. Sweden 119
  18. Turkey 142
  19. Spain 64
  20. Germany 76
  21. Malta 84
  22. FYR Macedonia 79
  23. Ireland 69
  24. Serbia 152
  25. Ukraine 128
  26. Moldova 97

Leaving aside performance impact and song, it can be seen that a number of countries are starting the contest at a serious advantage/disadvantage based on their draw in tonight’s final and their past voting Eurovision history. A number of countries are advantaged by regular history of voting support due to friends and neighbours voting and others, including Ireland, will hope to benefit from a great draw position, but there are some countries in this Final such as Serbia, Italy, Sweden, Ukraine, Turkey and Greece who benefit from both draw and past voting history and this will help them greatly in their hopes to win this year’s contest.

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One Response to “Voting history and draw positions and impacts on Eurovision Final 2012 voting patterns”

  1. The real winner of Eurovision 2012 is…er the actual winners « Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] of voting of those countries that were voting in this year’s contest, as was outlined in an earlier post. In a similar analysis for last year’s final, it was found that Ireland would have been the […]

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