“And our twelve points go to…” The phrase that we hear at the end of the contest once the voting has closed and the results are in. The phrase that begins the most nail biting half of the contest, the voting. In a previous article, we discussed the mechanics and systems in place for Voting in Eurovision, however I want to take a deeper look into how Europe votes and if geopolitics really effects the voting overall.
Historically speaking there has been a pattern of some countries awarding their highest points to the same countries each year, this includes the jury voting era, and a notable spike of “bloc voting” when the televote was introduced in the 90’s. This bloc voting includes of course the Baltics and Eastern European countries formerly tied to Russia, where these countries consistently highly award each other.
With these “blocs”, many countries rely upon and benefit from “friends and neighbors” for their coveted higher points. A great example of this is Cyprus and Greece consistently trading their 12 points or the United Kingdom and Ireland historically having awarded each other higher points, as well as Sweden and Denmark consistently sharing their 8 points or higher with one another. This reliance on friendly and neighboring countries can be often rewarding for some countries, however there have been instances where the public has completely gone against the grain. In 2017, it must be noted that Portugal, Moldova, Belgium and Bulgaria all placed in the top four during the grand final.
This isn’t to say that all neighboring countries rely on each other. In fact in recent years for example, Ireland has trended quite well with the Nordic “bloc” as well as scoring quite highly with the Baltic states while performing fairly low with other neighboring Western European countries including France and Spain.
Does Language Matter?
Whilst I love Eurovision for its diversity, ethno-bops and the use of native languages, Eurovision voters tend to prefer the songs that are performed in English, in fact in 2016 there were only three songs not of the English language competing. The argument can be made that since the native language rule was abolished in 1999 there has been a wave of song after song in English, greatly diminishing the number of entries in any other language.
That said however, recently there has been a buck against this trend and we’ve seen a significant resurgence of native languages in the contest. For the first time in recent memory, the top three songs of 2022 were all non English entries with the winning song Zitti E Bouni being in Italian, and both France’s entry Voila and Switzerland’s Tout L’univers performing in French.
Jury vs Public
Both the jury and the public votes can make or break a contestants Eurovision dreams. Since 2016 each country has returned the jury and televotes results separately creating an interesting comparison and contrast between the two voting systems. Both in 2019 and in 2021 there was quite a significant contrast between the juries and televoters based on their given results. A few notable examples include 2021 Go_A’s Shum only received 97 points from the jury, however the televoters awarded them 267 points, in contrast in 2019 Tamara Todevska’s Girl won the overall jury vote yet only placed 7th overall in the final.
A large part of the widening gap between the jury and televoters has a lot to do with demographics. Juries tend to prefer performances with solid vocals, lyrics and staging, tending to trend towards more “classic” or “safe” entries. In contrast, the televote typically reflects that many voters at home enjoy and are more likely to vote for fun and dynamic performances and staging as well as more ethnic or traditional sounding tracks.
We cannot forget of course the running order and how it can impact voters decisions. As previously discussed in my article, the running order can serve many contestants well or hinder them severely depending on when they go on. Many casual viewers watch the performances for the first time on the night of the Grand Final and their only impressions come from what they see and when. This can mean that for many in the audience, some acts can be forgotten or lost in the shuffle when sandwiched between two very dynamic performances. Conversely some contestants benefit greatly from their placement in the competition, giving them a slot to shine
With Eurovision now underway, it will be interesting to see how Europe votes and see any or all of these factors come in to play during the voting process.