Olé, Olé, Olé, Oh Vienna and Swedish Mean Girls: The Changing Geography of Ireland’s Eurovision vote patterns

Adrian Kavanagh, 30th January 2023

Figure 1: Countries assigned to different “pots” for the semi-final allocation draw for Eurovision Song Contest 2023

The most recent posts on this website have involved analyses of Eurovision semi final draws, with specific referrence to what these meant for Ireland’s chances of qualifying for the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest in those years. These analyses did factor in the importance of the contest running order – with a draw placing Ireland in the second half of a semi-final seen as much preferable to one placing Ireland in the first half – but also factored in the importance of having a number of “friendly” Eurovision countries voting in our semi-final. The decision on what was, and was not, a “friendly” country was based on an analysis I carried out in the early 2010s, which was updated in early 2018, that studied the televote patterns of each country in Eurovision between 1918 and 2017, and subsequently drew up maps to illustrate these analyses.

Figure 2: Average number of (televote) points award to Ireland at Eurovision contests by different participating countries between 1998 and 2017

What the map (Figure 2) showing Ireland’s Eurovision support patterns over this period (1998-2017) illustrated was a tendency for Ireland to fare well with the countries of north-western Euroope, and particularly the Viking Bloc, or Nordic Bloc. Our most reliable (and let’s be honest, most taken for granted) supporter over this period was clearly the United Kingdom, but Ireland also tended to win strong support levels, or at least stronger than average support levels, from countries such as Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland, as well as the Baltic States of Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. While Ireland was never central to the Nordic bloc, or clique, Ireland could usually be guaranteed a few points if a country like Sweden or Norway was drawn in the same semi-final. But then came the arrival of Australia in 2015 and things changed…

If we’re going to go for the full Mean Girls analogy here, the newcomer, Australia (Cady!), became quickly established as the new BFF of the Nordic Queen Bee, Sweden (Regina!). While some loyal lieutenants like Norway (Gretchen?) only got edged slightly aside, poor old Ireland got dropped from the Nordic friends group and started to find it very difficult to win any points at all from countries like Sweden and Norway, although some of the other Nordic countries, such as Denmark, Finland and Iceland (the Karens) did still send some Eurovision support Ireland’s way during this period. To stretch the Mean Girls analogy to an even more tenuous degree, Regina was of course played by Rachel McAdams, who later played the female lead in Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, in which film her singing voice was provided by Molly Sandén…who hails from SWEDEN. Total coincidence? I DON’T THINK SO!!!

Figure 3a: Average number of (televote) points award to Ireland at Eurovision contests by different participating countries between 2016 and 2022

In any case, Mean Girls shenanigans or not, as Figure 3a shows, Ireland has failed to win any points from the Swedish televote since 2016. while it has also struggled to win any points from Norway’s televote. Are there any positive notes for Ireland here? The continued strong support levels from the United Kingdom televote (if not necessarily their jury vote) remain to be seen. Ironically, given the earlier tenuous Mean Girls analogy, Australia has emerged as one of the more reliable supporters of Ireland when it comes to the Eurovision televote. but another cluster of strong support for Ireland has emerged in the Iberian peninsula. Spain has replaced Denmark (Denmark are now ranked seventh) as Ireland’s second strongest supporters when it comes to the Eurovision televote, followed by both Australia and Portugal in joint third place, with Austria filling out the Top 5. Based on these trends, it could be argued that Ireland has moved closer to Barcelona than to Bergen in recent years in terms of its Eurovision support patterns. The Czech Republic, along with Austria, forms a mini-cluster of stronger than average (televote) support levels for Ireland, with stronger than average support levels also still associated with a few north-western European countries, including Belgium, Denmark and Finland, as well as Estonia. Despite an overall fall in televote numbers for Ireland across this period, Ireland has fared much better with some countries than in the past, including the aforementioned cases of Spain, Iceland and Austria, but also other countries, such as Greece.

At the other end of the scale, Ireland has won relatively few (an average of under one point per contest) points over this period from Norway and Latvia, both of whom had been consistently strong supporters of Ireland at Eurovision between 1998 and 2017 (Figure 2), as well as France, Cyprus and North Macedonia, with Belarus falling just outside this categrory (with an average of 1.0 votes per contest). Ireland won no televotes whatsoever from Sweden, as already noted, and Italy, as well as Georgia, Armenia, Russia, Moldova, Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Serbia and Montenegro. (Bosnia and Herzegovina took part in 2016, but did not have the opportunity to vote for Ireland’s Nicky Byrne, as they took part in the other semi-final.) In a case of “it’s an ill wind that blows no good”, it’s worth noting that all of the countries that have withdrawn, or been disqualified, from Eurovision in recent years come from this group of countries.

Given that televote patterns usually say less about politics, than is commonly asserted to be the case, and say more about cultural commonalities, these changing televote trends may have something interesting to say about Ireland’s place in Europe and how Ireland is perceived by other European countries.

Figure 3b: Average number of (jury vote) points award to Ireland at Eurovision contests by different participating countries between 2016 and 2022

Looking quickly at the jury vote trends, we see some similarities with the televote map, but also some interesting differences as well. Ireland has fared best across this period with the juries from the Czech Republic and Iceland, as well as Austria, Estonia, Hungary and Italy. With the exception of the last two countries, all of these countries have also tended to be relatively strong supporters of Ireland in the televote, as well. Italy is an interesting case, as Ireland still remains to win even one point from the Italian televote, since that country returned to Eurovision in 2011. Ireland has also fared relatively well across this period with the juries from Lithuania, Switzerland, Australia, Moldova, and Spain, thus creating a cluster of jury vote support for Ireland in central Europe, as well as in the Baltic region, with the latter three countries emerging as interesting outliers here. At the other end of the scale, Ireland does notably less well with the United Kingdom jury vote than it does with that country’s televote, while Ireland failed to win a single jury vote point from Portugal across this period, despite Ireland’s relatively strong showing with Portugal’s televote. Over this period (2016-2022), Ireland has also failed to win any jury votes from The Netherlands, as wellas Georgia, Armenia, Russia, Latvia, Slovenia, Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and Greece.

Figure 4: Average number of (combined televote and jury vote) points award to Ireland at Eurovision contests by different participating countries between 2016 and 2022

If we, hence, look at the combined number of votes awarded to Ireland from both the televotes and jury votes of participating Eurovision countries, we see the United Kingdom emerging still as Ireland’s most enthusiastic Eurovision supporters, but only by the narrowest of margins ahead of Austria, with Spain and the Czech Republic following close behind, just ahead of Australia, Iceland and Estonia, with stronger than average combined vote levels also being associated with Belgium, Lithuania, Denmark, Portugal and Switzerland. Outside of the United Kingdom, the most obvious clusters of strong Irish support are, hence, focused on the Iberian peninsula and central Europe. At the other end of the scale, Ireland failed to win any Eurovision points (whether from the televote or jury vote) across this period from Armenia, Georgia and Russia, as well as Serbia, Montenegro and Slovenia. Ireland’s points tallies from countries such as Bulgaria, Cyprus and North Macedonia, as well as Latvia and Ukraine, and Sweden and France, have also been especially low across this period. Geography may explain part of this trend, given the distances – both geographically and culturally – between Ireland and countries, such as Georgia and Armenia. But this list also includes some countries that are located relatively closely to Ireland. France’s instrangience towards Irish Eurovision acts has been long a feature of the Televote Era, so there is nothing new here, but the particularly novel trend here is the collapse in Ireland’s Eurovision support levels from Latvia, but also from Sweden.

Maybe that Means Girls analogy wasn’t so tenuous after all?


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