Eurovision, a major actuarial exercise?

Arun Isaac delves into the statistics in the 2016 Eurovision Song contest, revealing 10 surprising patterns and trends along the way.

Historically, Australians love a good bandwagon which allows us to be patriotic, invent drinking games, and watch the UK getting crushed. For these reasons, the Eurovision Song Contest has been a huge hit in Australia over the last 34 years. Bizarrely enough, Australia has been invited to participate in the contest since last year, despite still being well within the Southern Hemisphere.

This year’s winner came from the Ukrainian entry 1944, about the Stalin-era deportation of Crimean Tatars into Central Asia – narrowly beating out runner-up Australia, represented by the now-world-famous Dami Im, who wowed the international audience with her song Sound of Silence.

So how does the voting work? The contest starts with 42 countries, with only 26 qualifying for the Grand Final. Each of the 42 participating countries submit two sets of ranks for the finalists (not including themselves); one set of points is taken from their local 5-member jury, and the other comes from their public vote.  The 84 sets of points are then combined in order to crown the winner of this annual glitterstorm.

Every year, the voting system comes under scrutiny of being perverted by political favouritism, jury corruption and poor judgement. With the power ogranular data released by the European Broadcasting Union (10,716 independent data points from this year), generally good but potentially spurious statistics, and quite frankly, a lot of spare time, I hope to address some of these claims.

So, get your wind machine and a table of Critical Values of your favourite statistical distribution: it’s time to begin.

ukraine
1. The juries dragged public-favourites Russia down.

Amongst public voters, Russia was the clear winner – 30 of the 41 countries’ televoters placed Russia in their Top 3 (from 26 finalists), and every country’s public vote awarded Russia at least 3 points. In contrast, juries were far less favourable: more than half of the juries awarded Russia 0 points.

But, the worst jury treatment for Russia came from four of the national juries who slapped Russia in their bottom 5 despite favourable public votes. Three of these juries happen to also be from the three European countries most recently invaded1 by Russia:

Ranking out of 25 given to Russia by each recently invaded country’s Jury and Public.

  Invaded Country

Jury Rank given to Russia

Public Rank given to Russia

Ukraine

22nd

1st

Georgia

23rd

3rd

Czech Republic1

25th

2nd

 

The fourth jury to downvote Russia was Lithuania, with four of the five jurors ranking Russia in last place, which seems like a bit of history repeating.

Ranking of Russia (out of 25 finalists) over the last two years by Lithuania.

 

Lithuanian Jury Ranking of Russia

Lithuanian Public Ranking of Russia

Rest of Europe Ranking of Russia

2015

20th

3rd

2nd

2016

25th

3rd

3rd

2. Europe has been enlisted in the Dami Army.

Australian representative Dami Im, who charted well around Europe, would have won based on last year’s voting system. Points are given only the top ten acts ranked by each cohort. In the former system, a “cohort” was a country (with jury and public votes aggregated), but this year, the public votes and jury votes of each country were treated as independent cohorts. As Ukraine’s song was divisive between the juries and the public, it would have received less points under the former system.

Number of cohorts giving Australia, Ukraine and Russia points, segmented by Jury and Public votes (41 Jury Cohorts, 41 Public Cohorts).

 

Australia

Ukraine

Russia

# Public Cohorts

37

40

41

# Jury Cohorts

38

24

20

Place under 2015 system

1st

2nd

3rd

Place under 2016 system

2nd

1st

3rd

 

Despite this, Dami still managed break into the some of the strong voting blocs, securing Top 2 rankings from countries in most historical blocs: the Balkans, the Warsaw Pact, Scandinavia, the Baltics, the former Soviet Union, and the Mediterranean.

3. Statistically, the Australian public is not the European public.

Why bother with basic geography when you have p-values? At the 95% level of significance, when all 42 countries’ public votes were combined, the only individual public vote statistically uncorrelated with the rest was Australia (r=0.36; Critical Value of r=0.39). Below are the four weakest correlations and a fact about each country.

Country

Correlation

Fun Fact

Armenia

0.41 – weak correlation

Not in Europe.

Azerbaijan

0.45 – weak correlation

Not in Europe.

Australia

0.36 – not significantly correlated

Surrounded by the Pacific and Indian Oceans, which in turn are surrounded by Africa, Asia, South America and Antarctica. Not in Europe.

Switzerland

0.44 – weak correlation

The public has rejected referendums to join the European Union and the European Economic Area, and supported a referendum limiting migration within Europe.

 

From the five Australian jurors, most were significantly correlated with the votes of the Australian public, with Australian Idol runner-up and cult hero Shannon Noll being the least correlated with the Australian public vote (r=0.25; not significant).

dami
4. The public ranks male contestants based on their looks.

Who doesn’t love fit-for-purpose (invented) statistics? This is captured by a statistic called the IBOGL Index (Influenced By Others’ Good Looks, and pronounced “eye-boggle”), which measures the tendency of a voting cohort to rank performers on their looks. This is calculated by stratifying a cohort’s voting ranks by gender, and then using a Spearman Rank Coefficient for each segment’s votes against a proxy for the performer’s attractiveness. I’ve used results from a fan poll3 called “Eurovision’s Next Top Model” as the baseline for this – fortunately, it carries a decent sample size of 66,000 votes, and is pre-segmented by gender.

Number of cohorts with statistically significantly IBOGL indices (Critical Value of IBOGL Spearman Coefficient is 0.53 at the 95% level of confidence).

 

Number of Voting Cohorts with a significant IBOGL index for Male Performers

Number of Voting Cohorts with a significant IBOGL index for Female Performers

Public

18

0

Jury

2

4

 

Almost half of all voting countries’ publics exhibited statistically significant IBOGL indices for ranking male contestants, indicating that these public cohorts were ranking male contestants based on attractiveness. Zero public voting cohorts judged female performers in the same way, which might speak to the general demographic of Eurovision fans. Juries hardly exhibited this type of voting pattern for male or female performers.

5. Serbia was the biggest beneficiary of bloc voting this year.

Serbia’s 18th place result was its worst in a Eurovision Final ever, but this was boosted by strong jury ranks and unanimous first place rankings from all former Yugoslav republics:

Rank given to Serbia by each voting cohort

Country

Jury Rank

Public Rank

Bosnia & Herzegovina

3

1

Croatia

9

1

Macedonia

4

1

Montenegro

5

1

Slovenia

6

1

Rest of Europe/Australia (Median)

19

23

 

During the first semi-final, the public voters of Greece and Cyprus mutually ranked each other in first place. Only Cyprus managed to qualify for the final, where again, they received top points from the Greek public and no one else, leaving Cyprus in 21st place overall.

6. The Swedish jury somewhat didn’t agree with their public.

Sweden’s massive impact on the music industry globally was visible in this year’s competition, with 10 other countries’ songs being written or produced by Swedes (on top of Sweden’s entry). The below table shows the Swedish public and jury votes for three of these countries – Czech Republic, Azerbaijan and Malta.

Performing Country

Swedish Public Rank

Swedish Jury Rank

Malta

23rd

4th

Azerbaijan

24th

2nd

Czech Republic

25th

8th

 

Essentially, the Swedish public’s bottom 3 were ranked in the top 8 by their jury.

After stripping these three anomalies from the Swedish votes, the correlation coefficient between the Swedish jury and Swedish public significantly jumps from 0.14 to 0.51 (Critical Value is 0.39), which would then make the two cohorts significantly correlated at the 95% level of confidence.

7. The Czech Jury statistically significantly ranked performances the opposite of their public 

That’s right – if you reversed the Czech jury votes, they would significantly predict the Czech public vote at the 95% level of confidence (r = –0.41).

But, as the Czech public was significantly positively correlated with the rest of Europe (r=0.62), this indicates that the jury was statistically unaligned with most other voting cohorts. The table below shows that the Czech public’s top and bottom three are somewhat aligned to the final place given by all countries, but the Czech jury votes are in a very different direction.

 

 Performer

Czech Public Rank

Czech Jury Rank

Final Place from all countries

Czech Public Top 3

Ukraine

1st

24th

1st

Russia

2nd

25th

3rd

Armenia

3rd

18th

7th

Czech Public Bottom 3

United Kingdom

23rd

7th

24th

Malta

24th

5th

12th

Croatia

25th

3rd

23rd

8. The juries – not the public voters – downvote non-English songs.

Only Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, and Austria performed with entirely non-English songs. In each semi-final, whereby only the Top 10 of the 18 semi-finalists qualify for the Grand Final, juries showed a clear aversion to these three songs:

Ranking (out of 18) segmented by public and jury votes during the Semi-Finals only. Green highlighting indicates a Top 10 (qualifying) rank.

 

All Public Votes

All Jury Votes

Combined Votes

Austria (Semi-Final 1)

2nd

11th

7th

Bosnia and Herzegovina (Semi-Final 1)

8th

14th

11th

Macedonia (Semi-Final 2)

8th

11th

11th

 

Based on the public votes alone, all non-English songs would have qualified; based on the jury votes alone, none would qualify. Only Austria – who strangely enough, sang in French – managed to qualify for the Grand Final once the votes were combined.

Furthermore, these songs were ranked higher by juries from countries where the language has some recognised minority or official presence:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina sang in Bosnian: a recognised minority language in Croatia and Montenegro. Both of these countries contributed 10 of the 26 jury points given to Bosnia and Herzegovina in Semi-Final 1.
  • Macedonia sang in Macedonian: a recognised minority language in Serbia and Albania. Both these countries contributed 24 of the 34 jury points given to Macedonia in Semi-Final 2.
  • In the Grand Final, sole qualifiers Austria received a strong 8th rank from the public; far from the harsh jury rank of 24th (out of 26). Interestingly, from the few jury points received, the juries from all three officially French-speaking participating countries – France, Switzerland and Belgium – ranked Austria’s French-language song strongly:

French-Official countries’ ranking of Austria’s song: green highlighting indicates jury members with significant French-language media presence2:

   

Individual Juror Ranking (out of 25)

Combined Jury Rank

 Voting Jury

Key Languages

#1

#2

#3

#4

#5

 

France

French

7th

8th

2nd

9th

1st

3rd

Belgium

French, Dutch

11th

15th

3rd

4th

4th

6th

Switzerland

French, German, Italian

1st

15th

24th

5th

2nd

7th

The above table is a breakdown of each juror’s vote, and individual jurors who have a significant French-language media presence2 are marked in green, who collectively appear to rank the song more favourably.

9. The juries continue to downvote Poland.

It’s hard to develop a statistic or index to explain why this trend has continued for the last three years, so here’s a table to show the difference between public and jury ranking of Poland:

 

Number of Finalists

Combined Jury Rank given to Poland

Combined Public Rank given to Poland

2014

26

25th

3rd

2015

27

27th

15th

2016

26

23rd

5th

10. Eurovision might just be a major actuarial exercise.

At this point, you might be mistaken into thinking that a European Call Option is the phone number to vote for another country’s song. Fear not: for next year, I’m calling on the Actuaries Institute of Australia to form a Specialist Sub-Committee and commission a Research Paper into optimising Australia’s entry. Strobe light flashes should follow a standard Brownian Motion process; ideal on-stage costume changes could be optimised by a Markov Chain; and the words “love” and “peace” arrive in song lyrics according to a Poisson Process. But no matter how many times a Stochastic Stiletto Simulation is run, there is one limiting factor that can’t be avoided…Australia still isn’t in Europe.

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Footnotes:

1Taken from Wikipedia “List of Invasions”. Ukraine was invaded by Russia in 2014; Georgia was invaded by Russia in 2008; Czechoslovakia was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1968.

2French-language media presence was taken by a significant online in French-speaking media, so it does not imply that others cannot speak French. Beglian juror Jo Lemaire has a strong French and Dutch presence, and was therefore flagged as having a significant French-language media presence.

3Taken from wiwibloggs.com

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