Sunday, 12 September 2010

Notorious Voting Scenes

One of the unceasing complaints about the Eurovision Song Contest is that ever since the introduction of televoting the contest has been dominated by 'political' (particularly diaspora) voting. In an attempt to combat this, the organisers recently introduced a part jury, part televote system, where the points awarded by a jury of 'experts' would be given equal weight to those from the televote. In theory the juries will be much more objective, and less easily swayed by 'extramusical' matters.

After the event the scores awarded by the juries are revealed, so it's possible to compare the juries' scores with the televote scores, theoretically giving us an indication of how much the voting public are affected by, say, a country's foreign policy, or who's controlling their gas supply. To make it easy to visualise, I've made a map showing all the countries who competed in the 2010 contest, and colour-coded it according to how much the televote rankings differed from the jury vote. Darker red means a country did much better in the televote than the jury vote, darker blue means the opposite. (These data are taken from the semi-finals as well as the final, taking the final results if a country appeared in both.)

The common theories are that Eastern European countries dominate the contest because "they all vote for each other" and that western nations are unfairly disadvantaged. So what does our map look like? (Click to make it bigger.)

My initial reaction to this is that there's no particularly obvious pattern - both east and west seem to 'benefit' from the televote with Turkey, Serbia and Moldova in the east as red as France and Spain in the west. Russia - often perceived as the biggest beneficiary of political voting - is a lighter red, finishing 4 places higher in the telephone than the jury vote, whilst the Netherlands are almost in the same boat finishing 3 places higher. Eastern Europe is a bit of a mix, whereas it's the Scandinavian countries - Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark - who seem to merit their 'usual suspects' status. Of these, only Norway are a shade of blue, and as the hosts this might be expected anyway (a common theory is that because a country hosts as a consequence of winning the previous year's competition, voters are less willing to vote for them to win again so soon).

So maybe the public aren't as politically minded after all, or maybe the juries are less objective than the organisers would hope. Alternatively, with so many countries densely packed into Eastern Europe it's inevitable that some will benefit and some will lose out from votes being shared around. These are only the results from one year, so it's not a great way to try and separate patterns from anomalies. For instance, this year Spain got to perform twice in the final after a stage invasion, which seems a fairly reasonable explanation for their 'overperformance' in the televote. A few more years of split voting should hopefully clarify the picture.

A final observation, which is rather cute (and perhaps a little reassuring) is that both Germany and the UK have a neutral colour in this map - they finished in the same position in the televote as the jury vote. For those who don't follow these things, Germany won the contest whilst the UK finished dead last. You can say what you like about dodgy voting, but they get the winner and loser spot on.

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