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Voting Insight: Would Alternative Voting Systems Change Eurovision 2014? Written by on August 3, 2014 | 2 Comments

As an aside from the serious natures of our previous editions of Voting Insight, we now take a look at what might have been in Eurovision 2014. Using the data as provided by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) we are able to create hypothetical situations and different results based on what we can deduce and assume from the results. 

However, there is a serious side here. Do any of these methods show trends that we would want to use to perhaps improve the fairness of the Eurovision Song Contest for the future?

Ben Robertson calculates the following methods and explains how Eurovision would look differently in each case.

Does This Bit Of Fun Really Matter?

Throughout the years, the Eurovision Song Contest has employed a number of scoring methodologies to calculate the winner. They get rather wild up until 1974, and in 1975 each country awarded the now traditional 12, 10, 8-1 points. Of course how they calculated who got douze and who gut nul has changed over the years, including the combinations with the public voting in the current 50/50 system.

One thing has stayed constant… awarding 12 for the top song. It feels like one of the few sacrosanct points of the Contest. What happens though when you look outside the current traditions and look at alternative methods of combining the thoughts of the juries and the opinions of the public? With the full voting data from the 2014 Contest, we can extrapolate and investigate.

It may or may not be a surprising point, but in each of the systems we have looked at, Austria always wins the Eurovision Song Contest. The qualifiers from the semi finals get a little shuffle, and The Netherlands and Sweden switch second and third places depending on the system (highlighting what might happen in a close Contest), but the overall opinion seems pretty clear no matter what system is employed.

Given that the current scoring system is understood and accepted by the watching public, there doesn’t seem to be much need to change to an alternative just for the sake of it. The tradition of ‘douze points’ should remain. That said, let’s take a closer look at four alternative systems in more detail.

Method One: Only Your Favourite

Some of the earliest voting of Eurovision involved a simple process of one jury member receiving one vote, where each jury member would get to vote for their favourite song only. How different would Eurovision 2014 be if only this was allowed?  Here each jury member gets just one vote for the song they put no. 1.  Here is how each Semi Final and the Grand Final would have looked.

Semi Final One

Country Points Placing
Sweden 20 1st
Hungary 16 2nd
The Netherlands 15 3rd
Armenia 12 4th
Albania 6 5th
Russia 6 6th
Iceland 5 7th
Montenegro 5 8th
Azerbaijan 5 9th
Estonia 3 10th
Latvia 1 11th
Ukraine 1 12th
Belgium 0  13th
Moldova 0  14th
San Marino 0  15th
Portugal 0  16th

The results here show that Ukraine and San Marino would miss out on a place in the Grand Final to the benefit of Estonia and Albania, which both do very well in this format. Four countries (including San Marino) were not placed as the favourite by any of the jury members. Sweden is a winner here although is not far away from Hungary and The Netherlands which fight it out for second place.

Valentina Monetta

Valentina Monetta

Semi Final Two

Country Points Placing
Austria 20 1st
Norway 13 2nd
Finland 13 3rd
Malta 12 4th
Romania 12 5th
Macedonia 6 6th
Israel 3 7th
Georgia 3 8th
Poland 3 9th
Lithuania 2 10th
Ireland 1 11th
Switzerland 1 12th
Slovenia 1 13th
Belarus 0 14th
Greece 0 15th
Portugal 0  16th

In this format we lose Switzerland, Greece, Belarus and Slovenia, form Saturday night. They are replaced by Georgia, Israel, Lithuania and Macedonia. Austria is still an emphatic winner of the Semi Final. Note that only two jury members were needed to support Lithuania enough to get it through to the Grand Final.

Grand Final

Country Points Placing
Austria 36 1st
Sweden 23 2nd
The Netherlands 21 3rd
Denmark 12 4th
Hungary 11 5th
Romania 9 6th
Russia 8 7th
Armenia 7 8th
Montenegro 7 9th
Finland 7 10th
Azerbaijan 6 11th
Norway 6 12th
Malta 6 13th
Germany 4 14th
Belarus 3 15th
Spain 3 16th
United Kingdom 3 17th
Ukraine 2 18th
Italy 2 19th
Switzerland 2 20th
Iceland 1 21st
Poland 1 22nd
Greece 0 23rd
France 0 24th
Slovenia 0 25th
San Marino 0 26th

It is clear to see that our eventual winner Conchita Wurst was the favourite song of the largest group of jurors too. 36 jury members (one in five) placed Conchita first in their voting. Denmark, finishing fourth, gained very well from this arrangement, which included them being placed 1st by all five members of the German jury.

Conchita Wurst, Ready To Rise (picture: Ewan Spence)

SHe will always ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’ (Photo: Ewan Spence)

Method Two: Full Voting

The EBU have made the point previously that to use the full system from first place to last place to rank every song enables everybody to have more of a say to let in particular the juries have full influence of the vote. The implication this year in the Grand Final was that juries were able to completely counteract some televotes resulting in televote favourites scoring zero.

How about, instead of using the 12, 10, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 system we have seen used in Eurovision for decades, we instead use the full spread of data. For example in the UK in the Grand Final, there are 25 other songs to vote for. The top one gets 1 point, second place gets 2 points, all the way up until 25 points for last place (with the lower score being the better score).

If we do this for all the countries and all the scenarios, we find that the qualifiers from the Semi Finals would not be different.

In Semi Final 1, the gap between San Marino and Portugal extends to 7 points making qualification a little more comfortable for the microstate, and Moldova cements its last place even further. Similarly in Semi Final 2, we do not see an obvious change in the voting results in, and our qualifiers would have been as before. The gap between qualifying extends here to a colossal 30 points between Slovenia and Ireland.

Grand Final

Country Points Placing
Austria 148 1st
Sweden 197 2nd
The Netherlands 209 3rd
Armenia 309 4th
Hungary 320 5th
Ukraine 371 6th
Switzerland 405 7th
Spain 414 8th
Norway 422 9th
Finland 449 10th
Denmark 451 11th
Russia 454 12th
Poland 458 13th
Romania 464 14th
Malta 503 15th
Iceland 513 16th
United Kingdom 517 17th
Greece 526 18th
Germany 541 19th
Belarus 570 20th
Azerbaijan 596 21st
Slovenia 664 22nd
Italy 681 23rd
San Marino 684 24th
Montenegro 692 25th
France 753 26th

Our winner Austria is once again emphatic in victory.  Spare a note though here for Sanna Nielsen who leapfrogs The Common Linnets into the second position. Dropping notably is Montenegro which when taking into account all the Grand Final positions here would have ended up 25th, propped up by France. Both Poland (televote success) and Malta (jury success) score much better in this system that in the official result.

Sanna Nielsen, GF 2014 (picture; Ewan Spence)

Sanna Nielsen, GF 2014 (picture; Ewan Spence)

Method Three: ReverseVision

How about, instead of saying which songs were best, Eurovision voting worked on which songs were voted the worst? For this what we do is rather than take the top 10 songs to make our voting table, this method gives points Eurovision-style to the bottom 10 songs in each combination, and offers nothing to the ‘better’ songs.

The lower your number of points, the better you do.

On Tuesday night, the qualifiers are unchanged. The difference between San Marino qualifying extends to a relaxing 11 points, and Sweden is our winner, picking up an average of less than one point per country. For Thursday’s show, again, we observe no differences in the qualifying countries in this method, and the top ten extend their difference ahead of the non-qualifiers. Austria is a runaway victory, only scoring 3 points in total.

Grand Final

Country Points Placing
Austria 0 1st
Sweden 0 2nd
The Netherlands 5 3rd
Switzerland 25 4th
Hungary 25 5th
Ukraine 32 6th
Armenia 33 7th
Spain 40 8th
Malta 49 9th
Poland 52 10th
Finland 54 12th
Denmark 54 11th
Norway 58 13th
United Kingdom 66 14th
Russia 68 15th
Romania 72 16th
Greece 75 17th
Germany 85 18th
Iceland 99 19th
Belarus 124 20th
Azerbaijan 125 21st
Slovenia 154 22nd
San Marino 200 23rd
Italy 206 24th
Montenegro 213 25th
France 237 26th

Unable to split the songs on points due to scoring the same ‘nil points’, we followed the official EBU tie-breaker procedure to make Austria the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest on this format in virtue of an earlier running order (see, even the rulebook knows that running order has an impact). Both Austria and Sweden were always higher than the bottom 10 songs in the combined vote from each country. Once again, Montenegro fares worse in this format again finishing in second last above France. We note that Poland and Malta are now able to score themselves even higher, both reaching the top ten, and Switzerland breaks into the top 5..

Method Four: Melodifestivalen Style

In Melodifestivalen, Eurovision’s biggest selection show from Sweden, a 50/50 jury televote split is used just like in real Eurovision. However a subtle difference is that the televote all comes as one big hit at the end of the voting, and each of the juries is added up individually first.

The impact of this from Melodifestivalen history is that if juries clearly agree with each other about a song being the best, it can take a really comfortable victory when only an enormous televote swing would change the result (such as Robin Stjernberg’s win in 2013). When the juries conflict with each other a huge televote can catapult a lower placed song into the lead (for example with Malena Ernman in 2009).

As an approximation of this method, we give each jury member their individual rating of each song and add this rating up to the equivalent ratings from the other four jury members. The televote score is then added, but it is first multiplied by 5 (so it goes 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 etc.) to give it a 50% weighting. The top televote song scores 5 points, and when the televote and jury are added the top country is the one with the lowest score.

Still following? Here are the points, and let’s go through all three evenings this time around:

Semi Final One

Country Points Placing
The Netherlands 144 1st
Sweden 136 2nd
Hungary 127 3rd
Ukraine 125 4th
Armenia 120 5th
Russia 61 6th
Montenegro 59 7th
Iceland 58 8th
Azerbaijan 52 9th
Portugal 46 10th
San Marino 41 11th
Latvia 35 12th
Estonia 33 13th
Belgium 29 14th
Albania 22 15th
Moldova 14 16th

The big difference here is that San Marino loses out on qualification which is taken by Portugal. Portugal does not now suffer as strongly from the individual jury members voting it negatively, and the increased robustness of the televote sees it catapult up to 10th position.

Semi Final Two

Country Points Placing
Austria 171 1st
Romania 125 2nd
Finland 95 3rd
Switzerland 93 4th
Belarus 85 5th
Greece 78 6th
Poland 76 7th
Norway 75 8th
Malta 59 9th
Slovenia 51 10th
Lithuania 38 11th
Ireland 34 12th
F.Y.R. Macedonia 30 13th
Israel 21 14th
Georgia 15 15th

Very little difference is found in this voting system. The gap between qualification and not is slightly reduced, and Austria’s win is marginally more secure, but overall the swings in voting in this Semi Final are not strong.

Grand Final

Country Points Placing
Austria 295 1st
The Netherlands 236 2nd
Sweden 220 3rd
Armenia 169 4th
Hungary 145 5th
Ukraine 114 6th
Norway 84 8th
Russia 84 7th
Denmark 74 9th
Finland 72 10th
Romania 71 11th
Poland 69 12th
Switzerland 69 13th
Spain 68 14th
Iceland 57 15th
Belarus 50 16th
Germany 44 17th
United Kingdom 38 18th
Montenegro 37 19th
Azerbaijan 33 20th
Greece 33 21st
Italy 32 22nd
Malta 31 23rd
San Marino 12 24th
Slovenia 10 25th
France 2 26th

Our winner Austria gains in total an extra 5 points which would have given ‘Rise Like A Phoenix’ the third highest score in Eurovision history. Few results upset the leaderboard greatly from that recorded from the Eurovision final, although we can note that Poland is a net gainer in this example again, moving up 2 places and 7 points, the highest gain of all the countries competing.

And Those Are The Alternative Votes Of The ESC Insight Jury!

Hopefully this Voting Insight has provided a little piece of interest to how Eurovision votes are calculated. We would love to hear your views on which system is best for the contest before we write our final edition at the end of the summer which will feature our conclusions of the entire analysis of the voting and suggest how we would improve the Song Contest for the future.

About The Author: Ben Robertson

Ben Robertson has attended over twenty Eurovision's, Junior Eurovision's and National Finals for ESC Insight. He uses statistics to explain the Song Contest aims to educate readers about what the Song Contest means to do many different people.

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