Who will make it to the Eurovision Song Contest 2016 Final? Predictions for the Semi Final contests based on past voting histories

Adrian Kavanagh, 25th January 2016

In terms of working out who may win this year’s two Eurovision semi-finals/predicting which countries might qualify from these, various factors can be looked at, but the four most significant ones are:

  • the song quality (which I use Eurovision betting odds as a means of trying to quantify this)
  • past voting histories (involving the different countries – the semi-finalists themselves and the three Big 5/Host countries drawn to vote in these – that will be voting in the different semi-finals)
  • position in the semi-final running order
  • performance quality (both in the (public)  show itself and the previous night’s dress rehearsal/jury final, which is the contest that the Eurovision juries get to vote on).

As only a crystal ball can predict the quality and impact of the different acts’ Eurovision performances at this stage and as betting odds and draw/running order position details are not yet known, this analysis will just focus on past voting history as a means of determining which countries are likely to qualify for the 2016 Eurovision Final.

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, but 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, 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.

It is worth noting, however, that 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. The changing rules determining how each country’s televotes and jury votes are combined to determine their Eurovision points allocations, as applied from 2013 onwards, has further diluted the impact of bloc voting, except in those cases where a country’s jury is more likely to vote geographically/politically than that country’s public vote is. But given that televoting still accounts for half of the total votes being awarded by countries, past voting histories of countries will give some indication as to the destination of their Eurovision votes in the 2015 Semi Finals, and also suggests that some countries – due to an ability to score highly within one, or more, Eurovision voting blocs – will start these semi finals at somewhat of an advantage to countries such as the Czech Republic, San Marino, Montenegro, Switzerland and Bulgaria, which have struggled to win Eurovision points over the past decade and half. But, effectively, all this model can try to predict is the destination of different Eurovision countries’ televotes – the destination of profession jury votes (which are solely based on the subjective views of five professionals/”experts” in each of the 43 participating countries) is harder to decipher.

To analyse this, I calculated, and ranked, the average number of points awarded by all the countries voting in the semi-finals since the introduction of televoting in 1998 to the 36 different countries that are taking part in these two semi-finals (18 countries in Semi Final 1, 18 countries in Semi Final 2 – following the disqualification of Romania on 22nd April 2016). The countries that have voting rights in these semi finals include (a) all the countries competing in that semi final and (b) the three big 5/Host countries that have been drawn to vote in that semi final.

In most cases, since the introduction of the 50-50 televotes/jury vote system, the official/combined points allocations of a country have been used, but in cases where televote details can be attained (as at the 2014  and 2015 contests, due to a decision to release the split jury vote and televote details for those contests) then the televote details have been used. This ranking is then used to determine the semi-finalists that the different voting countries are likely to award their 12 points, 10 points…and 1 point to in these semi-finals, based on past voting histories. Hence, in the case of Semi Final 2, the Irish 12 points is expected to go to Lithuania (with an average points tally of 8.18 points from Ireland to Lithuanian acts since the introduction of televoting in 1998), the semi-finalist that has enjoyed the highest average support level from Ireland in recent Eurovision contests. The next highest ranked country, Denmark (7.10 points average), would be predicted to win 10 points from Ireland, followed by the next highest ranked country, Latvia (6.33 points average), which would be predicted to win 8 points from Ireland, and so on…(7 points to Poland, 6 points to Belgium, 5 points to Norway, 4 points to Australia, 3 points to Ukraine 2 points to Slovenia and 1 point to Serbia). The predicted points’ destinations for all the other 20 voting countries in the Semi Final 2 are estimated in a similar manner (with a similar process also used for the Semi Final 1 voting countries). These points are then combined to calculate the overall predicted point tallies for the semi-finalists based solely on the past voting histories of the countries voting in these different contests.   

Based on this analysis, the following result would be predicted for Semi Final 1:

1. Azerbaijan 135 points, 2. Russia 133, 3. Greece 123, 4. Armenia 107, 5. Bosnia and Herzegovina 81, 6j. Malta and Hungary 69, 8. Iceland 68, 9. Estonia 62, 10. Finland 58, 11. Moldova 57, 12. Netherlands 56, 13. Austria 49, 14. Croatia 41, 15. San Marino 38, 16. Cyprus 34, 17. Montenegro 32, 18. Czech Republic 6

With so many of the Eastern European/Former Soviet “big hitters” in this semi final, it is perhaps not surprising that these countries are seen as likely to figure among the leaders on the scoreboard for this semi final, based solely on this analysis of each voting country’s past Eurovision voting histories (including the 18 semi-finalists and the Big 5/Host countries voting in this semi-final: Spain, France and Sweden). The inclusion of Sweden, as a voting country in this semi final, is seen to be a crucial factor in helping the chances of Iceland, Estonia and Finland, given how narrow the margin is between the countries ranked between 6th and 13th position in this analysis. Against that, based on this analysis the countries ranked in the Top 5 here seem well placed to contend for a Final place, barring a very low ranking by the professional juries and/or a poor song/performance.  

Based on this analysis, the following result would have been initially predicted for Semi Final 2:

1. Ukraine 120 points, 2. Serbia 110, 3. Denmark 101, 4. Norway 88, 5. Latvia 74, 6. Israel 72, 7. Lithuania 70, 8j. FYR Macedonia and Australia 69, 10. Romania 67, 11. Poland 66, 12. Albania 61, 13. Belgium 59, 14j. Belarus and Georgia 53, 16. Ireland 41, 17. Bulgaria 40, 18. Slovenia 34, 19. Switzerland 29.

However, following the disqualification of Romania on 22nd April 2016 (as discussed in this Wiwibloggs post), this means that one less country – Romania – will be voting in this semi final, which now has become an 18-country semi-final.  With 58 fewer points to be distributed, this means that the number of points predicted to be won by each country will, on average, fall by a few points. This factor also works against those countries that would have been expected to win the highest number of points off Romania, based on the above analysis, namely Israel, Ukraine and Serbia. It also means that countries that would have been expected to awarded higher points levels to Romania (including Israel, Italy, Belgium, Bulgaria and Albania), arising out of the analysis for this model, will now be awarding these points to other countries. This, of course, has a knock-on effect in terms of the number of points that would be predicted to be won for these countries.

(It is interesting to note that some countries – e.g. Latvia, Poland, Australia, Lithuania, Georgia, Switzerland – actually gain points in the updated analysis, as seen below, but some other countries – e.g. Israel, FYR Macedonia – are losing a significant number of points due to Romania’s disqualification. Indeed, Israel were ranked 6th in the earlier analysis, but are now overtaken by Poland, Australia and Lithuania in the updated model, excluding Romania. Similarly, Poland are also seen to leapfrog FYR Macedonia in the updated analysis.)

Based on the updated analysis (which now excludes Romania), the following result would have been predicted for Semi Final 2:

1. Ukraine 118 points, 2. Serbia 108, 3. Denmark 100, 4. Norway 88, 5. Latvia 78, 6j. Lithuania and Australia 72, 8. Poland 69, 9. Israel 66,  10. FYR Macedonia 65, 11. Albania 63, 12. Belgium 60, 13. Georgia 56, 14. Belarus 55, 15j. Ireland and Bulgaria 41, 18. Slovenia 34, 19. Switzerland 32.

With a good number of northern European, or Viking/Baltic Bloc countries, voting in this semi final, most of the north-western European countries are starting at an advantage here based on the past voting histories of the countries that will be voting in this semi final. (This, however, can also be a disadvantage as it means that a number of acts/countries from this region are all competing for the “Viking Bloc” vote.) The fact that the United Kingdom and Germany will be two of the “Big 5” countries voting in this semi final also adds to the significant advantage that these north-western countries enjoy. This is especially evident in the position of Denmark. Last year’s analysis predicted that Denmark (drawn then in a semi final with few Viking friends voting in it) would miss the final, which indeed transpired to be the case, but this year’s analysis shows a stronger ranking for Denmark, given the larger number of friendly Viking/Baltic bloc countries voting in this semi-final (which also includes Ireland and the UK, as well as the Baltic and Scandinavian countries). This analysis suggests that the Top 4 countries, as ranked here, well placed to contend for a Final place, barring a very low ranking by the professional juries and/or a poor song/performance, of course. The margin between the points calculated for the countries ranked between 5th and 15th positions (or even 5th and 17th/18th positions) is relatively narrow, however, suggesting that this is a very open semi-final in which everything is all to play for. It is also worth noting that last year’s analysis predicted lowly rankings/low points tallies for Slovenia and Montenegro in Semi Final 2, but both these countries went on to qualify for the Final. It is also worth 

So to conclude, this study offers a prediction as to how the 32 countries participating in the two semi-finals may fare in these. Due to a lack of a functioning crystal ball, this analysis cannot assess the impact of a vital element of Eurovision success or failure, namely the quality and impact of the performance on the Eurovision stage. An impactful stage act and strong performance can push previously unfavoured acts into contention, but a weak live performances can in turn nix the prospects of contest favourites. And the growing influence being accorded to the voting juries, arising from new rules on how each country’s televote and jury vote rankings are to be combined, is another aspect that may further skew this picture. (Even more so in this set of semi finals than in the two previous years, given that juries from 21 countries will be voting/ranking countries in both of these semi finals, as opposed to 18/19 countries at the 2014 semi-finals and 20/21 countries at the 2015 semi-finals.)

At this stage, we do not know how each country is faring in, or likely to fare in the bookie odds, given that relatively few countries have selected their Eurovision act and songs at this stage. Although we know which half of the semi final each country will be performing in, we also do not know the exact position in the running order that each country will be performing in at this stage and that too can have a notable bearing on the final result.

This is a very long-winded way of saying that if you decide to bet on the Final results based solely on this study and you make a few bob, then that’s great and mine’s a TK red lemonade (with the fizz taken out – the bubbles go to my head). On the other hand, if your bet goes horribly wrong and you single handedly cause another economic crash, then you’ll probably find me in deepest Outer Mongolia… 😮


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3 Responses to “Who will make it to the Eurovision Song Contest 2016 Final? Predictions for the Semi Final contests based on past voting histories”

  1. Eurovison Song Contest 2016: Semi Final 1 Review | Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] odds (based on Paddy Power odds as at 3.00pm on Monday 9th May) and (c) placings as estimated by my Eurovision prediction model. For each of these categories, ***** will mean “almost certain to qualify”, **** will […]

  2. Eurovison Song Contest 2016: Semi Final 2 Review | Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] odds (based on Paddy Power odds as at 3.00pm on Monday 9th May) and (c) placings as estimated by my Eurovision prediction model. For each of these categories, ***** will mean “almost certain to qualify”, **** will […]

  3. A Review of the Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final 2016 | Adrian Kavanagh's Blog Says:

    […] site at 12.00pm on Friday 13th May) and (c) placings as estimated by my Eurovision prediction model. For each of these categories, ***** will mean “Top 5 finish”, **** will mean […]

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