Eurovision contest scholarly research

This year’s Eurovision song contest is undoubtedly influenced, or not, by scholars’ attempts to understand what went wrong and what went right in previous contests. Two of the more notable studies are:

How does Europe Make Its Mind Up? Connections, cliques, and compatibility between countries in the Eurovision Song Contest,” Daniel Fenn, Omer Suleman, Janet Efstathiou, Neil F. Johnson, Physics, arXiv:physics/0505071v1, May 10, 2005. (Thanks to Jon Andersson, Adiyasa Dwitama, and others for bringing this to our attention.) The authors, at Oxford University in the UK, explain:

“We investigate the complex relationships between countries in the Eurovision Song Contest, by recasting past voting data in terms of a dynamical network. Despite the British tendency to feel distant from Europe, our analysis shows that the U.K. is remarkably compatible, or ‘in tune’, with other European countries. Equally surprising is our finding that some other core countries, most notably France, are significantly ‘out of tune’ with the rest of Europe. In addition, our analysis enables us to confirm a widely-held belief that there are unofficial cliques of countries — however these cliques are not always the expected ones, nor can their existence be explained solely on the grounds of geographical proximity. The complexity in this system emerges via the group ‘self-assessment’ process, and in the absence of any central controller. One might therefore speculate that such complexity is representative of many real-world situations in which groups of ‘agents’ establish their own inter-relationships and hence ultimately decide their own fate. Possible examples include groups of individuals, societies, political groups or even governments.”


Comparison of Eurovision Song Contest Simulation with Actual Results Reveals Shifting Patterns of Collusive Voting Alliances,” Derek Gatherer, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, vol. 9, no. 2, 2006. (Thanks to Investigator Duncan Philps-Tate for bringing this to our attention.)

“Although the outcome of the contest is decided using a simple electoral system, its single parameter – the number of countries casting a vote – varies from year to year. Analytical identification of statistically significant trends in voting patterns over a period of several years is therefore mathematically complex…. the period since the mid-90s has seen the emergence of large geographical voting blocs from previously small voting partnerships, which initially appeared in the early 90s. On at least two occasions, the outcome of the contest has been crucially affected by voting blocs. The structure of these blocs implies that a handful of centrally placed countries have a higher probability of being future winners.”