Split votes 2013: An initial analysis

by Richard West-Soley 255 views

As the number-crunching begins following the EBU’s release of split-voting data, fan sites and blogs are busy spotting trends and evaluating the impact of the contest’s new voting system.

A first cursory glance at the figures reveals an instant positive note: both juries and televoters were in agreement not only on the winner, but the runner-up of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Moreover, the top five countries in the final landed in the top ten of both the professionals and the viewers at home, signifying some broad agreement between the two that they were worthy members of the top rankings.

However, beyond that, the truth from the murky depths suggests that one thing is clear: to avoid drowning at the bottom of the final tables, you need either a jury or a televote ‘save’; without that, acts tread the Eurovision stage at their peril.

The scoreboard ‘save’

For example, Romania’s left-side scoreboard finish was down to a televote ‘save’, after juries almost unanimously panned it with a very low average of nearly 18th place overall. Conversely, Sweden was saved from abject embarrassment by a jury ‘save’; had it been up to televoters, Robin would have polled extremely poorly, but a handy 8th place average from the juries dragged him up to a less embarrassing mid-table finish.

What emerges in this picture is what a dangerous environment the contest is to a song which is just ‘quite popular’ or generally pleasing – but not outstanding – to both juries and televoters. In the averaged, weighted ranking system, this is simply not enough. Ireland’s Ryan Dolan found that out to his disappointment; finishing mid-table in both camps, he nonetheless sank like a stone to the bottom of the final table – finishing below Spain, with puzzlingly more damning low placings.

Less spectacularly, the UK’s Bonnie experienced this too; although juries rated her a respectable 12th overall, she failed to secure a televote ‘save’ and drifted down to a meagre 19th place in the final tally. The picture is similar with Finland. And this is where the full-ranking system of voting will fail a country with a song nobody really hates, but nobody really loves either. The new system was touted as a way to avoid the problem of “being just outside everyone’s top ten” yet coming last. It seems the problem has not gone away – it was just displaced.

At the extremes of the system, however, even a jury or televote ‘save’ cannot rescue the most doomed. Spare a thought for France, who was popular amongst the juries, almost creeping into the top ten when the placings are averaged out. Finishing second-last in the televote, Amandine was dragged back down to a crushing 23rd overall.

Tight semifinals – with some exceptions

The semifinals offer an interesting picture. The averages are clustered around a particular group of placings, with few ‘very low’ average rankings for any country. This suggests a broad disagreement between countries on rankings, with high and low rankings fluctuating wildly from country to country, producing a fairly tight bunching of average marks in the results table. There are no such ‘dramatic saves’ here, and the jury and televote differ less than they do in the final figures. This might make for an extremely tight contest, and therefore, fans might argue, a more exciting one. But for the failed semifinalists, the difference between joy and disappointment is sharper than ever, clustered around a few averaged-out mid-table placings. The exceptions are Montenegro, Austria – which even the juries could not save from semifinal sadness – and,unsurprisingly, given data from the final, Romania. These three countries emerge as the biggest points of contention between juries and televoters in the semifinals.

Fans call for full data release

Despite all the analysis possible on the combined split results, there is a clear limit to how much can be discerned from this data alone. The clearest picture – and, for fans, the most ideal scenario – would be a full release of the entire breakdown from each individual competing TV station. Just like the final Eurovision vote, an average, combined result obscures the nuances and details which reveal the true trends underneath. In absence of that data, the clamour of fans’ calls to release the full data will not die down. Only then can the true nature of the new system be assessed.