Voting in the Eurovision Song Contest

Does voting in the Eurovision Song Contest reflect personal preferences, bandwagoning, rational calculations, or something else? Daniel Stockemer, André Blais, Filip Kostelka and Chris Chhim attempted to find out.

Founded in 1956 as an attempt by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) to bring Europeans together after the trauma of World War II, the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) is much more than the largest song contest in Europe; it is one of the most widely watched non-sporting events in the world.

The 2017 edition of the ESC attracted 200 million viewers worldwide across television and internet streaming media. Yet, the ESC is much more than a music contest, it is a site of European nation formation, identity building, and culture formation. In addition, the ESC is one of the largest political elections for non-electoral office.

The competition is held annually, with each participating country being invited to submit one original song to be performed on the night of the competition. After all the songs have been performed, each country then casts votes for other countries’ songs (but they are not allowed to vote for their own song), with each participating country awarding a set number of points to ten countries.

A song seen as a particular country’s ‘favorite’ will be awarded twelve points, with the second-favorite song given ten points. From there, eight points through one point are given to the remaining ‘favorites’. Those not in the top ten get zero points from that country.

In our article, recently published in Politics, we are interested in spectators’ voting patterns.  Do Eurovision watchers cast a sincere ballot? If they do not vote sincerely, do they follow the logic of rational choice by voting for the most likely winner among their preferred songs? Do ESC televoters jump on the bandwagon by jettisoning their personal preferences and supporting the country whose song they think is most likely to win? Or rather, do voters cast their ballot according to other considerations?

To answer these questions, we developed an original questionnaire and fielded it online during the week of the 2016 ESC. Our individual-level analyses of more than 500 study subjects reveal four key findings with regard to voting behavior in the Eurovision Song Contest.

First, most respondents do not vote for their preferred song; sincere voting occurs only in 26 percent of the cases in our sample.

Second, another 26 percent of respondents vote according to the logic of bandwagoning, choosing to vote for the song they think has the highest chance of winning (despite the fact that this was not their preferred song).

Third, strategic voting is relatively infrequent; only 11 percent of the vote choices follow rational choice assumptions of choosing the most likely winner among one’s preferred songs.

Finally, most individuals in our survey vote for a song other than their preferred song, the likely winner, or the strategic choice. Their choice might be influenced by a particular affect or specific ties to particular certain country, and a preference to vote for a culturally/ ethnically similar country

Daniel Stockemer

Daniel Stockemer

Daniel Stockemer is an Associate Professor in the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa. His main research interests are political participation, political representation, right-wing extremism in Europe, as well as quantitative and qualitative research methods. Since becoming a professor in 2010, Dr. Stockemer has published 2 single authored book, 1 edited volume and more than 75 articles in peer reviewed journals. He is co-editor of European Political Science (EPS), the professional journal of European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR). In 2015, he was also the local organizer of the annual meeting of the Canadian Political Science Association.

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