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
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.
Semi Final Two
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.