Will Ireland make it to the Eurovision Song Contest 2017 Final? Predictions for the Semi Final contests based on past voting histories

Adrian Kavanagh, 31st January 2017

An initial analysis of the voting history patterns for the other countries taking part in and/or voting in Ireland’s Eurovision semi final suggests that Ireland faces an uphill battle to qualify for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest Final.

The draw for the two 2017 Eurovision Song Contest semi finals took place in Kyiv this morning.

draw

Semi Final draw for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest (Eurovision, 2017)

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

  • Song quality (hard to glean, but 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 initial analysis will just focus on past voting history as a means of determining which countries are likely to qualify for the 2017 Song Contest 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. This group also includes Ireland, as Ireland has showed a remarkable consistency during the “full-blown” televoting era in awarding its highest Eurovision points to Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and the United Kingdom, as well as 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 other 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 would be combined to determine their Eurovision points allocations, as applied from 2013 to 2015, had further diluted the impact of bloc voting, except in those cases where a country’s jury was more likely to vote geographically or politically than that country’s public vote. The new system, introduced at the 2016 contest, however allows each country’s jury vote and televote to “stand alone”, meaning that each country returns two sets of points for the semi final contest, which they are voting in, and the final. This means that Eurovision contestants can still expect to win a significant number of points from countries that traditionally have tended to vote for them over the past decade and a half due to cultural and geographical reasons. But the fact that each country’s jury vote also “stands alone” means that songs/acts that are “jury friendly” have a good chance of doing well, irrespective of the combined impacts of diaspora and friends and neighbours voting.

That being said, given that televoting still accounts for half of the total votes being awarded by the different Eurovision countries, the past voting histories of countries will give some indication as to the destination of their Eurovision votes in the 2017 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. I am going to use a model here to try and predict each country’s votes in the two Eurovision semi finals, based on the past voting histories of the other countries that will be taking part and/or voting in these semi finals. But, effectively, all this model can try to predict is the destination of different Eurovision countries’ televotes. The destination of professional 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 37different countries that are taking part in these two semi-finals (18 countries in Semi Final 1, 19 countries in Semi Final 2). 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 a number of cases, covering the period after a 50-50 televotes/jury vote system was introduced in the late 2000s, the official/combined points allocations of a country have been used. In cases where the televote details can be attained (as at the 2014, 2015 and 2016 contests, due to a decision to release the split jury vote and televote details for these) 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 8.58 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 (6.90 points average), would be predicted to win 10 points from Ireland, followed by the next highest ranked country, Estonia (4.61 points average), which would be predicted to win 8 points from Ireland, and so on…(7 points to Russia, 6 points to Romania, 5 points to Norway, 4 points to The Netherlands, 3 points to Malta, 2 points to Austria and 1 point to Bulgaria). (By contrast, Ireland has yet to award any Eurovision televote points to an act from San Marino or FYR Macedonia across the period since televoting was introduced in 1998.)

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.   

eursemifinal1draw

The draw for Semi Final 1 of the Eurovision Song Contest

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

1. Sweden 148 points, 2. Greece 132, 3. Australia 117, 4. Azerbaijan 95, 5. Armenia 93, 6. Georgia 68, 7. Belgium 64, 8. Albania 63, 9j. Latvia/Cyprus/Moldova 58, 12. Iceland 56, 13. Poland 50, 14. Finland 48, 15j. Slovenia/Portugal 33, 17. Montenegro 31, 18. Czech Republic 13

With quite a number of north-western countries voting in this semi final, including members of the Viking/Balkan voting blocs (and also helped by the fact that the United Kingdom will also be voting in this semi final), the analysis of past voting history (since 1998) suggests that Sweden is very well placed to do very well in this semi final, especially given that country’s strong level of recent success at the contest. Greece missed out on the Eurovision Final in 2016 for the first time since the semi-final qualification system was introduced in 2004. But this is a good semi final draw for them, including a number of countries that would traditionally award relative high numbers of points to the Greek Eurovision entries., and the analysis suggests a return to form for Greece in 2017. The analysis suggests that Sweden and Greece, as well as – to a lesser degree – Australia, are highly likely to qualify from this semi final, with Azerbaijan and Armenia also looking as both being highly probable qualifiers based on this analysis.

Based on this analysis, the competition for the last five qualification slots is much less clear cut. Georgia and – to a lesser degree – Belgium and Albania have edged slightly ahead of the rest of the chasing pack. There is nothing to separate three of the countries currently fighting it out directly for the last two qualification berths, with Moldova, Latvia and Cyprus all predicted to end up with an equal number of points, based on this analysis, with Iceland falling just two points behind these countries. Poland and Finland would also appear to be very much in the mix for qualification, with ten points, or less, separating these countries from the three countries currently sharing the 9th and 10 placed qualification slots. Portugal, Slovenia and Montenegro would appear to face a significant challenge in terms of qualifying out of this semi final, based on the analysis, with the Czech Republic falling even further off the pace here.  

   

eursemifinal2draw

The draw for Semi Final 2 of the Eurovision Song Contest

Based on this analysis, the following result would be predicted for Semi Final 2:

1. Russia 169 points, 2. Serbia 131, 3. Denmark 102, 4. Norway 96, 5j. The Netherlands/Hungary 75, 7. Romania 67, 8. Austria 63, 9. Malta 62, 10j. Israel/Croatia 57, 12. Estonia 56, 13. Bulgaria 54, 14. Belarus 49, 15. Lithuania 48, 16. FYR Macedonia 45, 17. Ireland 30, 18. Switzerland 28, 19. San Marino 12

Russia is predicted to win this semi final, by a fairly comfortable margin.  This is not surprising given that country’s level of success in contests during the 2000s, but also given the fact that a number of Former Soviet states (including Hosts, Ukraine) will be voting in this semi final and given that there are sizeable Russian diasporas in these states and a number of other states. The inclusion of three other member of  the “Former Yugoslav” pot in this semi final gives Serbia a significant advantage here too, but there are also a number of other countries, with large Serb diaspora populations, voting in this contest too. With a good number of northern European, or Viking/Baltic Bloc countries, voting in this semi final, some of  – but not all 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 Germany will be one of the “Big 5” countries voting in this semi final adds to the significant advantage that these north-western countries enjoy. This is especially evident in the position of Denmark and Norway, although last year’s semi final analysis did predict that both of these countries would qualify for the Final and they ultimately missed out at the semi final stage. 

The analysis suggests that Russia, Serbia, Denmark and Norway are all highly likely to qualify for the final, with Hungary and The Netherlands also looking well placed to progress from this semi final. The contest for the final qualification berths is, however, more intense, with Romania, Austria and Malta pulling slightly ahead of the rest of the field in this regard. There is very little to choose between a number of countries in the contest for the final qualification berth in this voting histories analysis, with Croatia and Israel both sharing the tenth place ranking, Estonia coming just one point behind these, Bulgaria coming just two further points behind Estonia and only a handful of points separating these from Belarus, Lithuania and FYR Macedonia.

Three countries fall well behind the rest of the field in this analysis – Ireland, Switzerland and San Marino – and the voting history analysis would suggest that these three countries face an uphill battle in terms of qualifying for the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest Final.

It is worth noting that, while this is a bad draw for Ireland, things could have been decidedly worse! The worst case scenario – the “nightmare draw” referred to in the previous post/analysis – was avoided, as Ireland drew only nine of the eighteen countries listed in this, as regards the countries taking part in and/or voting in Semi Final 2.

eurovision_nightmare

Ireland did actually draw twelve of the nineteen countries that were listed in the “dream draw”, as identified in the previous post.

eurovision_dream

But it is testament to Ireland’s generally poor performances at Eurovision over the 2000s that even a slightly more favourable draw sees Ireland still at a notable disadvantage in their semi final relative to a number of the other competing countries. Ireland would need to be drawn with nearly all the countries listed in the “dream draw” listing in order to get any degree of an advantage from the Eurovision semi final draw. Ultimately, it is also vital for Ireland that our closest neighbour, and best friend at Eurovision in terms of awarding points, the United Kingdom gets drawn to vote in our semi final, which did not happen this year.

Semi Final 2 features the two strongest countries, out of those competing in the semi final, in terms of semi final qualification records since 2004. Russia and Romania both have a 100% qualification record (out of nine semi final appearances) since 2004, although both countries did lose out in the prequalification round for the 1996 Eurovision Song Contest in Norway. (Only Ukraine, with a 100% qualification record (out of ten semi final appearances), has a better qualification record than Romania and Russia, but of course Ukraine progresses directly to the Final as Hosts this year. There are also two countries with a 100% qualification record in Semi Final 1, but while Azerbaijan has been successful semi final qualifiers on eight different occasions, Australia has participated in only one Eurovision semi final to date.

The ranking of countries by semi final qualification records (since 2004) for both of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest semi finals reads as follows:

Semi Final 1

1. Azerbaijan 100% (8 semi finals), 2. Australia 100% (1 semi final), 3. Greece 90% (10 semi finals), 4. Armenia 89% (9 semi finals), 5. Sweden 88% (8 semi finals),  6. Georgia 78% (9 semi finals), 7. Moldova 64% (11 semi finals), 8. Iceland 58% (12 semi finals), 9j. Albania/Finland 50% (12 semi finals), 11. Cyprus 45% (11 semi finals), 12. Latvia 42% (12 semi finals), 13. Poland 40% (10 semi finals), 14. Belgium 33% (12 semi finals), 15. Slovenia 31% (13 semi finals), 16. Portugal 27% (11 semi finals), 17. Montenegro 25% (8 semi finals), 18. Czech Republic 20% (5 semi finals)

Semi Final 2

1j. Russia/Romania 100% (9 semi finals), 3. Hungary 80% (10 semi finals), 4. Serbia 75% (8 semi finals), 5. Norway 70% (10 semi finals), 6. Denmark 64% (11 semi finals),   7. Lithuania 58% (12 semi finals), 8. Malta 55% (11 semi finals), 9. Israel 50% (12 semi finals), 10. Croatia 50% (10 semi finals), 11. Ireland 45% (11 semi finals), 12. Austria 43% (7 semi finals), 13j. Estonia/FYR Macedonia 38% (11 semi finals), 15j. The Netherlands/Belarus 31% (13 semi finals), 17. Switzerland 25% (12 semi finals), 18. Bulgaria 20% (10 semi finals), 19. San Marino 14% (7 semi finals)

While hardly the most promising detail to pull out of this, the fact that eight countries in Ireland’s semi final have a poorer semi final qualification record to date may offer some cold comfort here in terms of Ireland’s prospects of qualifying for the Eurovision Final this year.

Another dimension that needs to be factored in here relates to each country’s position in the semi final running orders. We do not know each country’s exact position in the semi final running order, as of yet, but we do know whether they will be performing in the first half or the second half of the semi final contests. Previous research has shown that a later position in the semi final running order can significantly improve a country’s prospects as regards qualifying for the Final, while an early position in the running order (but particularly around the 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th performance slots) will make qualification a harder (but not impossible prospect). This is further bad news for Ireland, given that Ireland has been drawn to perform in the first half of the second semi final.

So to conclude, this study offers a prediction as to how the 37 countries participating in the two semi-finals may fare in these. (This initial draft just looks at Semi Final 2, but I will add Semi Final 1 details to the post at a later time, I promise!) Due to the 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 night 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.

The growing influence being accorded to the voting juries, arising from new rules on that dictate that each country’s set of televotes and jury votes will “stand alone”, is another aspect that may further skew this picture. A country, which might struggle in the televote in a semi final, could well be in a position to compensate for this with a very strong performance in the semi final jury vote. Hence, for some countries, the jury semi finals (held the night before the public contests) may prove ultimately to be more important than the publically broadcast shows.

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 semi final qualifications/results based solely on the results of this study and you make a few bob, then that’s great and my tipple’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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