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Over-Analysis Of The OGAE Eurovision Poll Written by on May 6, 2016

The OGAE Poll for 2016 ended just as rehearsals kicked off here in Stockholm. What can we learn from the combined opinions of 43  member Eurovision fan clubs from across the globe, what can we read between the lines and how can we use this to predict the final results? Ben Robertson breaks down the data.

Originally, the OGAE Poll fed into the Marcel Bezençon Fan Award given out for the first time in 2002, a program set up by now Contest Director Christer Björkman. The award was dropped a year later, to be replaced by one selected by composers competing at the Eurovision Song Contest, but the thought of each club joining forces to appoint a winner did not go away. In 2007 ‘Molitva’ was the first winner of the OGAE Eurovision Song Contest Poll, and this co-operation has been in place ever since.

How it works from the standpoint of OGAE International is quite simple. Each of the member OGAE clubs across the network are entitled to vote in the Poll Eurovision style, with twelve points to their favourite song all the way down to 1 point to tenth place. Most countries have one Eurovision fan club making it a close replica to the Song Contest.

The results for the OGAE voting at the Stockholm meeting of Melodifestivalklubben in April (Photo: Ben Robertson)

The results for the OGAE voting at the Stockholm meeting of Melodifestivalklubben in April (Photo: Ben Robertson)

There are a few exceptions however. At the current time of writing Hungary, San Marino and Australia are examples of countries without their own club, so vote under the umbrella club OGAE Rest of the World. Furthermore, there are two different clubs in Germany still active, and still separate in the network, so Germany gets to vote twice. Portugal also votes without taking part this year, as does Slovakia, whereas inactive clubs Bulgaria and Moldova were not a part of the final list.

The Runaway Leaders

Votes started coming through at the beginning of April and when club was ready their results were released by OGAE International. However the leaders stayed in front for the entire duration of voting. Russia, with Sergey Lazarev and ‘You Are The Only One’ was matched neck-and-neck by France, represented by Amir and ‘J’ai Cherché’. In the final stages of voting it was France that took the victory with a humongous total of 425 points (average of 9.88 per club).

The impact of France’s confirmation as a fan favourite was felt in other parts of the Eurovision community. One obvious example is the betting market shift as the OGAE Poll results flooded in. As the results started being revealed one by one, France continued to edge closer and closer to the top of the betting charts. Furthermore this clear data as a fan favourite also made sure he got plump, late running order slots through the preview party roadshow. France has fared very well in the fan polls previously, coming in second place in 2009 and 2011, but this success has not entered the final voting. France only have one top ten placing since 2002, and seven places lower than 20th in the last eleven Contests. Winning would be a big ask, and we have been here before.

Russia though are in new territory this high up the OGAE Poll. Last year Russia scored the highest Eurovision points score ever for a non-winning entry, but only scored 72 points in the OGAE Poll. Indeed when Dima Bilan won in 2008 he was outside of the OGAE top ten. For a magnitude of reasons Russia wouldn’t be the top of the fan tree, but suddenly Sergey has captivated support and scored points from every single OGAE club. It’s worth nothing that lots of the former Soviets have given Russia 12 points, but also many of the Scandinavian schlager loving fans. Note though how the Ukrainian club, awarding just one point, was the lowest score that Sergey received.

What The Rest Tell Us

Australia in third place in particular demonstrates the type of song it is. A modern song with a catchy hook and well delivered vocal, ‘Sound of Silence’ heaped in tons of points in the 5 to 8 range, but only got three 12 points and three zeroes. One could expect which this narrow spread this song being many a person’s third or fourth favourite, great for jury voting but not so much for televoting. Given as her first rehearsal on stage upped the level of impressive ‘vocal capacity’ on show, it would be no surprise for Australia to be in-front at the halfway point given this type of voting pattern.

Bulgaria, Italy and Spain follow in 4th, 5th and 6th are strong fan favourites in different ways, but it’s the eclectic cluster just below which could be fascinating (however again note none of the above scored any 12 points). Austria’s ‘Loin d’ici’ has been described as a fan favourite this year, but 7th place doesn’t really do that status justice. However the five clubs putting Zoe at the top of the tree have huge fan communities; Finland, France, EC Germany, OGAE Germany and Austria. However the support for this song in smaller, more Eastern fan clubs is almost non-existent. The old-school oompah sound doesn’t appear to travel away from the schlager ears of Western Europe, and there might not be enough of them voting to score Austria high enough. Just behind Austria, Latvia has points from a far wider demographic of scoring countries and it therefore is no surprise to see it as a far more likely winner candidate.

Ukraine came in 9th place in the final poll makeup, but with ‘1944’ being such a divisive song it’s no surprise to see a huge stack of zeroes in the poll results. However the big points here are fascinating, with Baltic nations like Latvia, Poland and Lithuania awarding at least 2nd place to the haunting ballad. There’s much less support from the West, but without Turkey taking part this year it’s interesting to note OGAE Turkey putting this song in third place, which could amount to some extra support from Turkish and Turkic diaspora on the night. Also fighting for lots of Eastern votes seems to be 10th place Hungary, which only just scraped over double digits from OGAE clubs in the West (5 from Andorra, 1 from France, 1 from Italy, 4 from Luxembourg and 3 from Spain) being the only ones.

Methodology Madness

We can also read into the results some interesting breakdowns from how clubs record their votes. The vast majority of clubs have members submit their results through email, however it’s very much not the only way. OGAE Croatia ask each of their voting members to rank each song on a scale from 1-10 for example. The impact of this is that it is easily to negatively rank a song lower. Some low scores for Russia from a couple of their members drops the points from Croatia to just a 4. This type of voting pattern plagued Russia in the actual Eurovision voting last year, and if OGAE voting can be used as some indicator it suggests that such negative voting may crop up again.

Another section of clubs to point out are those that run their voting through organising local parties, where members come together and watch all the songs in one huge sitting. Quite often these are fun gatherings and you can see a slight turn towards fun party songs in these results. Clubs such as OGAE Israel and OGAE Finland vote in this method, awarding songs like ‘If Love Was A Crime’ and ‘Loin d’ici’ higher than average scores.

What This All Means Now

In total 3336 Eurovision fans voted this year in the OGAE Poll. They are very much the first reference group we all have for seeing what is going to be popular, but they are such a tiny fraction of the final vote. Any interpretation of OGAE results has to be taken with numerous pinches of salt, after all it has failed to predict the Eurovision winner more times than not. Some of those Poll results have been disastrously wrong, with Sweden’s ‘Hero’ in 2008 and Hungary’s ‘What About My Dreams’ in 2011 becoming huge fan favourites but languishing at the bottom of the Saturday night scoreboard.

The status of fan favourite though can be used to influence betting odds and running orders and the Poll is certainly important for generating lots of interest in the competitive nature of 42 songs going head-to-head. The real use of this type of data is to analyse what trends are different across the continent. Will Zoe be able to garner support in the East, and Freddie in the West? Will it be France, Russia, Bulgaria or Spain that fulfils the mantelpiece of pop when televoters unite behind just one track? Will the UK really end up on a big lonely zero on the Saturday night?

What I know I’ll be doing is using this data on the morning of Saturday May 14th. This will be after we know the voting order of each country in the Grand Final, and we can thus attempt to interpret the EBU’s top secret making-the-voting-exciting algorithm. For example if a whole bunch of Baltic nations are in the mix revealing their points early, that might post a chance towards a Swedish or Ukrainian head start with the juries.

But it very easily might not as well, and that is what makes Polls and voting of any type before the final reveal filled with so much anticipation.

About The Author: Ben Robertson

Ben Robertson has attended 23 National Finals in the world of Eurovision. With that experience behind him he writes for ESC Insight with his analysis and opinions about anything and everything Eurovision Song Contest that is worth telling.

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