Sunday, May 15, 2011

How to Take Europe by Surprise: Analysis of the Eurovision 2011 Results

Azerbaijan's victory in the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest came as a shock to many, present company included. In order to better understand the impact of various European blocs on voting outcomes, I took the data provided by and ran some analyses. I'm going to throw them out here with just a bit of discussion in the hope that we can come to some conclusions together in the comments.

The first thing I looked at was how many countries cast a vote of any size for each of the top-five countries. Then I broke them down by how many of each vote each of those countries received.

  • FIRST PLACE (221): Azerbaijan -- 30 countries voting: 3 1st, 5 2nd, 10 3rd, 2 4th, 3 5th, 2 6th, 1 7th, 2 8th, 1 9th, 1 10th
  • SECOND PLACE (189): Italy -- 30 countries voting: 4 1st, 5 2nd, 1 3rd, 2 4th, 6 5th, 1 6th, 2 7th, 5 8th, 1 9th, 3 10th
  • THIRD PLACE (185): Sweden -- 32 countries voting: 2 1st, 6 2nd, 0 3rd, 1 4th, 5 5th, 2 6th, 7 7th, 4 8th, 0 9th, 4 10th
  • FOURTH PLACE (159): Ukraine -- 23 countries voting: 3 1st, 3 2nd, 2 3rd, 6 4th, 2 5th, 2 6th, 1 7th, 1 8th, 3 9th, 0 10th
  • FIFTH PLACE (134): Denmark -- 19 countries voting: 3 1st, 3 2nd, 1 3rd, 3 4th, 3 5th, 2 6th, 1 7th, 2 8th, 0 9th, 1 10th
(If you're interested in all the details, you can view the entire data set, including how many countries voted for each entry in the Final, in this Google Document.)

Rule #1 for Taking Europe by Surprise: Aim for Broad Appeal
The top-three countries all had at least 30/42 countries voting for them (with one removed because they cannot vote for themselves). The next two countries hovered around just 20 countries each. Though he didn't take the title, Sweden's Eric Saade did have one thing right: you'll "get" the title "when [you're] popular" across the board >cue sound of shattering glass<.

Rule #2 for Taking Europe by Surprise: Aim for Third Place
Essentially what this breakdown shows us is that you don't need to be everyone's douze points -- you actually come out better if you aim to be just good enough. Azerbaijan monopolized nearly 25% of the third-place votes and thereby secured themselves the win. Italy scored high in 2nd, 5th, and 8th places, Sweden in 2nd and 7th.

Before I went into greater detail of which blocs voted for whom, out of curiosity I looked at the countries who cast NO votes for the top-five entries to see if regional/historical preferences were already at play.
  • Azerbaijan received no votes from: Armenia, Bulgaria, Denmark, Macedonia, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Serbia, Slovenia, Spain, UK (7/5 west-east split)
  • Italy received no votes from: Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Israel, Moldova, Norway, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Netherlands, Turkey, Ukraine (7/5 east-west split)
  • Sweden received no votes from: Albania, Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Spain, Switzerland (even 5/5 split)
  • Ukraine received no votes from: Austria, Belgium, Bosnia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, San Marino, Spain, Switzerland, Netherlands, UK (15/4 west-east split)
  • Denmark received no votes from: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Finland, Georgia, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Moldova, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine (14/9 east-west split)

Rule #3 for Taking Europe by Surprise: Aim to Please Both West and East
The top-three vote getters all had nearly equal geographical splits in the countries that disliked their songs entirely, i.e. their styles were not polarizing culturally/geographically. Note that the fourth and fifth place winners were strongly less appealing to one area generally -- and therefore saw fewer points from the other region overall.

At this point, I started working more closely with the numbers and the regions. I looked only at the data for the Final competition for 2011 -- a better analysis would take into account the influence of the semi-final voting on the participation and results of certain blocs in the final. I also stuck to clearly defined historical-geographical regions; a more nuanced analysis might consider further where certain Western or Eastern European countries should lie based on their voting preferences. Further fragmentation is certainly possible and would be more truthful based upon analysis of voting patterns over many years, not just the 2011 competition.

Here are the blocs I chose to examine:
Western European bloc: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Iceland, Italy, Malta, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Netherlands (20 countries)
Scandinavian bloc: Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden (5 countries)
Large Communist bloc: Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Macedonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine (21 countries)
Strictly Soviet bloc: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Russia, Ukraine (10 countries)
Yugoslav bloc: Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia (5 countries)

What the analysis showed:
The Strictly Soviet bloc is the only one that did not hold together in a meaningful way in 2011. Otherwise, the impact of bloc voting is both obvious and significant. That said, the impact is seen to be greatest not necessarily on the winners (who garner large amounts of votes across the board), but rather on the middling entries from each region (whose point totals attributable to bloc voting can reach nearly 80%) .
  • 10 of Western Europe's entries (total of 13, including the Big Five) received over 50% of their votes from the Western European bloc, among them the 2nd, 3rd and 5th place winners.
  • 8 of the Large Communist bloc's entries (total of 12 entries) received over 50% of their votes from the bloc, among them the 1st and 4th place winners.
  • 10 of top 13 Western European bloc, 9 of top 13 Large Communist bloc, 3 of top 3 Yugoslav bloc, and 4 of top 6 Scandinavian bloc vote-getters (by total) came from each bloc respectively.
Feel free to extrapolate further and leave your thoughts in the comments.


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