Eurovision Song Contest and the Harmony it Takes to Win

In studying human societies, it’s often said that music connects people, creating bonds within and bridges between cultures. Every spring, that musical bridge for Europe is The Eurovision Song Contest. Eurovision serves as a platform to present unique national or international songs from different cultures, languages, and countries. The first contest took place in 1956 when seven nations participated. Since then, it has grown to include over forty countries.

Every year, millions of people around the world find it interesting to learn how the winners are chosen, examine the structure of Eurovision voting among countries, and how different regions affect voting patterns (Western Europe, Scandinavia, The Balkans, Eastern Europe, and peripheral areas). Furthermore, it is also interesting to explore reciprocal voting patterns between countries. Which countries are favored by different countries, and vice versa? And how does a country get their song voted into first place?

In this study, we will try to answer the following questions:

  1. In general, and by region, which are the countries that are most liked (judged by voting points) in Eurovision?
  2. Which countries are most favored by a given country (Top 5 Countries )? Also, to what extent are the voting patterns regional (within or between European regions)?
  3. To what extent are voting patterns closed (reciprocal between a set number of countries – top 5) or diverse between different countries?
  4. Finally, which voting strategy helps countries win the Eurovision contest?

We included each participating country in one region.

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Regional Classification of the Countries in the Eurovision Song Contest
Regional Classification of the Countries in the Eurovision Song Contest

Methodology

To explore countries’ voting patterns, we analyzed datasets of all Eurovision scoring for over 60 years (1956-2018). Based on this dataset, we computed Network Density Scores for each country and its top 5 favored countries based on the number of points given over all Eurovision contests.

We created a Network Density Score (two-way connections, among countries) and calculated it as the number of voting ties (two-way connections) between each country’s top 5 favored countries / divided by the potential voting ties between those top 5 countries (there are 25 potential ties for the top 5).

Voting Network Density (two-way connections, among countries) = L / (N*N).

When: L = Actual voting ties between each country’s top 5 favored countries N*N = Potential voting ties between a given country’s top 5 favored countries (25 potential ties). Density Ties are measured on scale 0-1, when 0= Diverse Voting Ties, to 1=Very close ties = High-Density Network

Type A - Conservatives Highly closed voting within the top 5 favored countries (Reciprocal voting ties among the top 5 favored countries) and HIGH internal regional voting Type B – Regional Loyalty MID/LOW closed voting ties among the top 5 favored countries and HIGH internal regional voting Type C – Network Loyalty HIGH closed voting ties among the top 5 favored countries + MID/LOW internal regional voting Type D - Independents MID/LOW closed voting ties among top 5 favored countries + MID/LOW Internal regional voting

Voting Categories for Eurovision
Eurovision voting strategies
Voting Strategies

Main Findings

 Eurovision Contest Winners
Table 1: Eurovision Contest Winners (1956-2018)

Sweden and Ireland are the countries with the most Eurovision wins (7 wins for Ireland and 6 wins for Sweden).

Following them are France with 5 Eurovision wins and Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Israel with 4 wins. Denmark, Luxembourg, and Norway come in with 3 wins. Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, and Ukraine get 2 wins and 13 other countries have only one win. (See Graph 1).

Number of winning songs in Eurovisions
Graph 1: Number of Winning Songs by Country
Eurovision Distribution Points
Graph 2: Distribution of Points to and from Regions Between 1956-2018 (128,049 Total Points Given)

Between 1956-2018, the total number of Eurovision points given was 128K points:

  • 15 Western European countries gave the largest share of the points - 46,600 points (36% of the points)
  • 15 Balkan countries gave 29.5K points, (23% of the points)
  • 11 Eastern European countries gave 22.5K points (18% of the points)
  • 5 Scandinavian countries gave 18.4K points (14% of the points)
  • 6 peripheral area countries gave 10.9K, (9% of points)

However, during the same period 128,049 points were received as follows:

  • 15 Western European countries received only 40,400 (32% of the points) vs. 46,600 given points (36% of points given) – a negative number of -6,173 net points going out of this region.
  • 15 Balkan countries received only 28,600 (22% of the points) vs. 29,500 given points (23% of points given) – a negative number of 859 net points going out of this region.
  • 11 Eastern European countries received 24,700 points (19% of the points) vs. only 22,500 given points (18% of points given) – a positive number of 2,175 points coming into this region.
  • 5 Scandinavian countries received 20,100 points (16% of the points) vs. only 18,400 given points (14% of points given) – a positive number of 1,689 points coming into this region.
  • 6 Peripheral area countries received 14,000 points (11% of the points) vs. only 10,900 given points that were (9% of points) – a positive number of 3,168 points coming into this region.

The positive net points of peripheral area countries hint (at first sight) that European countries are open to accepting countries from different places. This indicates that there are regionally diverse voting patterns among European countries.

Tables 2.1 and 2.2 present the points gap between points that a country received vs. points that the country gave to other countries. We found that Sweden (from the Scandinavian region) is ranked first with 2,532 net points and 6 first place wins. Sweden is placed before two Eastern European countries - Russia (ranked 2) with 2,202 net points and only 1 first place win and Ukraine (ranked 3) with 1,955 net points and 2 first place wins. In ranks 4-7 are Azerbaijan (Central Asia – Europe) with 1 first place win, Israel (Middle East) with 4 first place wins, Australia, and Armenia (Central Asia) with no first-place wins.

Even though each country is able to give the same amount of points for each competition, not all countries have participated in the same amount of competitions. That explains why, as an example, Morocco had only 58 points to give vs. Sweden who had 4,072 points to give. Morocco participated in only one contest.

These findings on the country level also indicate that European countries are open to different countries from different places – and proves again the diverse voting behavior

Table 2.1: Eurovision Contests: Relative Point Ranks by Country 1956-2018 (Ranks 1-20)

Eurovision Contests: Relative Point Ranks
Total points for a country in the Eurovision contest: points received (to country) vs. points given (from country), 1956-2018

Table 2.1: Eurovision Contests: Relative Point Ranks by Country, 1956-2018 (Ranks 21-52)

Eurovision Contests: Relative Point Ranks Number 2
Total points per country participating. points received (to country) vs. points given (from country), 1956-2018

TOP 5 Favored Countries

The following analysis shows the top 5 favored countries for each country during all contests between 1956-2018. Each country has one row showing which were her its top 5 countries that got the most votes over the years.

Eurovision Top 5 Countries
Table 3: Top 5 Countries Given Most Points from a Given Country

Region Internal Voting vs. Region External Voting

First Dimension of Top 5 Voting Patterns

Table 4.1: The Relationship Between Points from Region to Region; Eastern Europe (Top 5 Countries) and The Balkans (Top 5 Countries)

 Relationship Between Points from Region to Region Eastern Europe

Table 4.2: The Relationship Between Points from Region to Region; Scandinavia, West Europe, Peripheral Areas (Top 5 Countries)

 Relationship Between Points from Region to Region Scandinavia, Web Europe

Table 5: The Relationship Between Points from Region to Region (Top 5 Countries)

Top 5 Countries Between Regions

Table 5 shows Region Internal Voting vs. Region External Voting

  • East Europe, for example, gave 58% of their points to Eastern European countries and 18% to Scandinavia and the Peripheral area countries
  • Balkans gave countries in their region 61% of their points and East Europe 16% of their points
  • Scandinavians gave other Scandinavians 68% of their points and West Europe 25% of their points
  • West Europe gave other countries from West Europe 59% of their points and Scandinavians 21% of their votes
  • Peripheral countries gave East Europe 32% of their points and the Balkans 23% of the points

When focusing on a country’s top 5 most voted for countries (by points), we realize the impact of regional internal voting.

In relative numbers, the most closed regional internal voting was found among Scandinavian countries; 68% of the points voted by Scandinavian countries were given to their internal Scandinavian region. Nevertheless the "relative Scandinavian voting size was only 14%. The percentage of relative regional internal voting by the Scandinavian countries was higher by 370%!

In comparison, the relative regional internal voting by Eastern Europe was 227%, Balkan countries (165%), Western European countries (62% relative regional internal voting), and the Peripheral area (only -2% relative regional internal voting since these countries are not really a cohesive region).

Dense Voting Ties: Reciprocal Closed Voting Ties vs. Diverse Voting Ties (Top 5 Countries)

Second Dimension of the Top 5 Voting Patterns

Sweden, Russia, Ukraine, and Denmark are countries with closed voting networks. Among their top 5 favored countries, we see reciprocal voting (0.75 density ties, on a scale of 0-1, when 0= diverse voting ties, to 1= very closed voting ties). On the other hand, Australia, Andorra, Slovakia, and San Marino have diverse ties among their top 5 favored countries (0.32 density ties).

Table 6: Top 5 Countries Most Elected by their Internal Region (sorted by density)

Top 5 voting habits in Eurovision

The Structural Network of Eurovision Voting - Which Strategy Brings the Win?

Voting Strategy: High-Density Networks (>=0.5), High Internal Regional Voting (>=50%)

Indeed, Sweden and Russia have very high closed ties between their top 5 voted for countries. However, the ties between their favored countries are different based on internal regional and external regional voting. The reciprocal closed ties between Sweden's top 5 favored countries are within its Scandinavian region, and the reciprocal closed ties between Russia's top 5 favored countries are outside its Eastern European region. Therefore, we classified the voting ties into 4 categories.

High Density Networks

The Structural Network of Eurovision Voting - Which Strategy Brings the Win?

Type A - Conservatives

Highly closed voting within the top 5 favored countries (Reciprocal voting ties among top 5 favored countries) + HIGH internal regional voting (Network Density >= 0.50), (% Region Internal >= 50%) Number of Countries - 18 Net Category Points (received vs. given) -1,356 Avg. Wins 1.32

Type B – Regional Loyalty

Highly internal regional voting within the top 5 favored countries MID/LOW closed voting ties among top 5 favored countries + HIGH internal regional voting (Network Density < 0.50), (% Region Internal >= 50%) Number of Countries - 8 Net Category Points (received vs. given) -1,095 Avg. Wins 0.88

Type C – Network Loyalty

This strategy brings the most scores and the most wins

HIGH closed voting ties among top 5 favored countries + MID/LOW internal regional voting (Network Density >= 0.50), (% Region Internal < 50%) Number of Countries - 12 Net Category Points (received vs. given) 2,938 Avg. Wins 1.83

Type D - Independents

MID/LOW closed voting ties among top 5 favored countries + MID/LOW Internal regional voting (Network Density < 0.50), (% Region Internal < 50%) Number of Countries - 13 Net Category Points (received vs. given) -487 Avg. Wins 0.46

Voting Strategy A - Conservatives

HIGH closed reciprocal voting for the top 5 favored countries & HIGH internal regional voting:

HIGH closed reciprocal voting for Eurovision

Sweden’s Voting Network (Top 5 Countries) Two-Way Voting:

  • TYPE A: Network Density 0.84 (21 voting ties out of 25 potential voting ties) on scale 0-1 when 1=very high)
  • Internal Regional Voting (79% of the points from Top 5 Countries are region internal)
  • Sweden won the Eurovision contest 6 times and is the most favored country receiving 6,604 points and giving 4,072 points
Sweden's Voting Network in the Eurovision

Voting Strategy B - Regional Loyalty

MID/LOW closed reciprocal voting of the top 5 favored countries & HIGH internal regional voting:

MID/LOW closed reciprocal voting for Eurovision

Cyprus' Voting Network (Top 5 Countries) Two-Way Voting

  • TYPE B: Network Density 0.40 (10 voting ties out of 25 potential voting ties) on scale 0-1 when 1=very high)
  • Most of its points were Internal Regional (56% of the points from Top 5 Countries)
  • Cyprus has yet to win the Eurovision contest (although it did get to 2nd place in 2018) has received 3,098 points and given 3,190 points
Cyprus' Voting Network

Voting Strategy C- Network Loyalty

High closed reciprocal voting of the top 5 favored countries & Mid/Low internal regional voting:

High closed reciprocal voting in the Eurovision with Mid/Low internal regional voting

Germany’s Voting Network (Top 5 Countries) Two-Way Voting

  • TYPE C: High Network Density 0.68 (17 voting ties out of 25 potential voting ties) on scale 0-1 when 1=very high)
  • MID/LOW Internal Regional (37% of the points from Top 5 Countries)
  • Germany has won the Eurovision contest 2 times, receiving 3,412 points and giving 4,115 points
Germany’s Voting Network

Voting Strategy D- Independents

Mid/Low closed reciprocal voting of the top 5 favored countries & Mid/Low internal regional voting:

Mid/Low closed reciprocal voting with mid/low internal regional voting

Turkey’s Voting Network (Top 5 Countries) Two-Way Voting

  • TYPE D: Low Network Density 0.44 (11 voting ties out of 25 potential voting ties) on scale 0-1 when 1=very high)
  • MID/LOW Internal Regional (27% of the points from Top 5 Countries)
  • Turkey won the Eurovision contest once. It has received 2,786 points and given 2,494 points.
Turkey’s Voting Network

Summary

In this analysis, we identified the patterns of Eurovision Song Contest voting strategies for all the participating countries. Our findings revealed two reversed voting trends.

On the one hand, when we summarize the net points each Eurovision participant received — minus the points a country gave, ranking high (4-7) — we found countries from the peripheral area of Europe: Azerbaijan (Central Asia – Europe), Israel (Middle East), Australia (Oceania), and Armenia (Central Asia). These findings indicate that European countries are open to accepting music from countries and places different from them, which hints to diverse voting patterns among the countries participating in the Eurovision Song Contest.

On the other hand, we also found closed internal regional voting patterns and closed reciprocal voting ties among networks of favored countries of a given country (top 5 favored countries) such as among the Scandinavians and among the Balkans.

When we zoomed into the top 5 most favored countries (in points) by a given country we learned that on average, 57% of the countries that were favored in the Top 5 Countries by a source country belong to the same region of the source country.

Furthermore, 27 countries out 52 countries that participated in the Eurovision Song Contest (52%) have closed voting ties - reciprocal voting ties - within their top 5 favored counties (over 0.50 network density ties on a scale of 0-1 when 1 = higher closed voting).

These findings indicate that the Eurovision voting patterns are indeed closely related to cultural closeness and are closed within regions, but at the same time, Eurovision voting shows that on a country by country level, there is openness toward diverse cultures and music from the peripheral areas of Europe.

The surprising insight of the voting strategy analysis proves that Type C that are loyal to their Top 5 Network but vote OUTSIDE of their region have more points from all. This category received 2,938 points more than they gave and they have an average win rate of 1.83 - this group includes Ireland, Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Germany. The highly closed group strategy of Type A received 1,346 points LESS than they gave (negative balance) and their average wins were less (1.32) - this group includes Sweden, France, Denmark, and Norway.

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