Voting at the Eurovision Song Contest
The winner of the Eurovision Song Contest is selected by a positional voting system. Each country awards two sets of 12, 10, 8–1 points to their 10 favourite songs: one from their professional jury and the other from televoting. The current system has been in place since 2016. Countries were only permitted to vote for their own entries in 1956.
Small, demographically-balanced juries made up of ordinary people had been used to rank the entries, but after the widespread use of telephone voting in 1998 the contest organizers resorted to juries only in the event of a televoting malfunctions. In 2003, Eircom's telephone polling system malfunction. Irish broadcaster RTÉ did not receive the polling results from Eircom in time, and substituted votes by a panel of judges. Between 1997 and 2003 (the first years of televoting), lines were opened to the public for only five minutes after the performance and recap of the final song. Between 2004 and 2006 the lines were opened for 10 minutes, and from 2007 to 2009 they were opened for 15 minutes. In 2010 viewers were allowed to vote during the performances, but this was rescinded for the 2012 contest.
The BBC contacted regional juries by telephone to choose the 1956 winners, and the European Broadcasting Union (producers of the contest) later began contacting international juries by telephone. This method continued to be used until 1993. The following year saw the first satellite linkup to juries.
To announce the votes, the contest's presenters connect by satellite to each country in turn and inviting a spokesperson to read the country's votes in French or English. The presenters originally repeated the votes in both languages, but since 2004 the votes have been translated due to time constraints. To offset increased voting time required by a larger number of participating countries, since 2006 only countries' eight-, 10-, and 12-point scores are read aloud; one- to seven-point votes are added automatically to the scoreboard while each country's spokesperson is introduced. The scoreboard displays the number of points each country has received and, since 2008, a progress bar indicating the number of countries which have voted.
|1956||2||Two-member juries from each country awarded two points to their favourite song.|
|1957–61||10–1||Ten-member juries distributed 10 points among their favourite songs.|
|1962||3–1||Ten-member juries awarded points to their three favourite songs.|
|1963||5–1||Twenty-member juries awarded points to their five favourite songs.|
|1964–66||5, 3, 1||Ten-member juries awarded points to their three favourite songs.|
|1967–69||10–1||Ten-member juries distributed ten points among their favourite songs.|
|1970||Ten-member juries distributed 10 points among their favourite songs. A tie-breaking round was available.|
|1971–73||10–2||Two-member juries (one aged 16 to 25 and the other 25 to 55) rated songs between one and five points.|
|1974||10–1||Ten-member juries distributed ten points among their favourite songs.|
|1975–96||12, 10, 8–1||All countries had at least eleven jury members (later rising to sixteen) that would award points to their top ten songs.|
|1997||Twenty countries had jury members and five countries used televote to decide which songs would get points.|
|1998–2000||All countries should use telephone voting to decide which songs would receive points. In exceptional circumstances (e.g. weak telephone system) where televoting was not possible at all, a jury was used.|
|2001–02||Every broadcaster was free to make a choice between the full televoting system and the mixed 50–50 system to decide which songs would receive points. In exceptional circumstances where televoting was not possible, only a jury was used.|
|2003||All countries should use telephone/SMS voting to decide which songs would receive points. In exceptional circumstances where televoting was not possible at all, only a jury was used.|
|2004–08||All countries used televoting and/or SMS-voting and to decide which songs would receive points.[note 1]|
|2009–12||All countries used televoting and/or SMS-voting (50%) and five-member juries (50%), apart from San Marino which is 100% jury due to country size. This is so called jury–televote 50/50.[note 2] The two parts of the vote were combined by awarding 12, 10, 8–1 points to the top ten in each discipline, then combining the scores. Where two songs were tied, the televote score took precedence.|
|2013–15||The same as in 2009–12, except jury and televote are combined differently. The jurors and televoting each rank all the competing entries, rather than just their top ten. The scores are then added together and in the event of a tie, the televote score takes precedence.|
|2016–||Points awarded from popular vote are calculated together before being announced, effectively doubling the points which can be awarded in total. With a total of 42 voting countries, the maximum amount of points one can mathematically receive is now 984 (41 countries giving 12 points in each of jury and popular votes)|
- Back-up juries are used by each country (with eight members) in the event of a televoting failure.
- In the event of a televoting failure, only a jury is used by that country; in the event of a jury failure, only televoting is used by that country.
The most-used voting system (other than the current one) was last used for the 1969 contest. This system was used from 1957 to 1961 and from 1967 to 1969. Ten jurors in each country each cast one vote for their favourite song. In 1969 this resulted in a four-way tie for first place (between the UK, the Netherlands, France, and Spain), with no tie-breaking procedure. A second round of voting in the event of a tie was introduced to this system the following year.
From 1962 to 1966, a voting system similar to the current one was used. In 1962, each country awarded its top three one, two and three points; in 1963 the top five were awarded one, two, three, four and five points, and from 1964 to 1966, each country awarded its top three one, three and five points. With the latter system, a country could choose to give points to two countries instead of three (giving three to one and six to the other); in 1965, Belgium awarded the United Kingdom six points and Italy three. Although it was possible to give one country nine points, this never occurred.
The 1971, 1972, and 1973 contests saw the jurors "in vision" for the first time. Each country was represented by two jurors: one older than 25 and one younger, with at least ten years' difference in their ages. Each juror gave a minimum of one point and a maximum of five points to each song. In 1974 the previous system of ten jurors was used, and the following year the current system was introduced. Spokespeople were next seen on screen in 1994 with a satellite link to the venue.
The 2004 contest had its first semifinal, with a slight change in voting: countries which did not qualify from the semifinal would be allowed to cast votes in the final. This resulted in Ukraine's Ruslana finishing first, with a record 280 points. If the voting had been conducted as it had been from 1956 to 2003 (when only finalist countries could vote), Serbia and Montenegro's Željko Joksimović would have won the contest with 190 points: a 15-point lead over Ruslana, who would have scored 175 points. To date, non-qualifying countries are still allowed to vote in the final. In 2006, Serbia and Montenegro were able to vote in the semifinal and the final despite their non-participation due to a scandal in the selection process.
With the introduction of two semifinals in 2008, a new method of selecting finalists was created. The top nine songs (ranked by televote) qualified, along with one song selected by the back-up juries. This method, in most cases, meant that the tenth song in the televoting failed to qualify; this attracted some criticism, especially from Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (who had placed 10th in the televote). In 2010 the 2009 final system was used, with a combination of televoting and jury votes from each country also used to select the semi-finalists. Each participating country had a national jury, consisting of five music-industry professionals appointed by national broadcasters.
These are all the songs that have scored over 300 points. One of these, "A Million Voices" sung by Russian artist Polina Gagarina, became the first song to get over 300 points without winning the contest, Australia became the first country to get over 500 points, but still didn't win the contest. As the number of voting countries and the voting systems have varied, it may be more relevant to compare what percentage of all points awarded in the competition that each song received (computed from the published scoreboards ).
|Contest||Country||Artist||Song||Points||Percentage of points|
|2016||Australia||Dami Im||"Sound of Silence"||511||10.49%|
|2016||Russia||Sergey Lazarev||"You Are the Only One"||491||10.08%|
|2016||Bulgaria||Poli Genova||"If Love Was a Crime"||307||6.30%|
|2015||Russia||Polina Gagarina||"A Million Voices"||303||13.06%|
A tie-break procedure was implemented after the 1969 contest, in which France, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom tied for first place. With no tie-breaking system in place at the time, it was determined that all four countries would be awarded the title; in protest, Austria, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Portugal did not participate the following year.
In the procedure, sometimes known as a countback, if two (or more) countries tie the song receiving points from the greater number of countries is the winner. If there is still a tie, a second tie-breaker counts the number of countries who assigned twelve points to each entry in the tie. Tie-breaks continue with ten points, eight points, and so on until the tie is resolved. If the tie cannot be resolved after the number of countries which assigned one point to the song is equal, the song performed earlier in the running order is declared the winner unless the host country performed earlier (in which case the song performed later would be the winner). This rule originally applied only to first place ties, but since 2008 has been applied to all places.
In 1991, the tie-break procedure was implemented when Sweden and France both had 146 points at the end of the voting. At the time, the tie-break rule was slightly different; the first tie-break rule (the country supported by the most other countries wins) was not yet in use, and the current rule of first determining the country with the votes from the most countries was not added until 2003. Both Sweden and France had received the maximum twelve points four times; when the number of ten-point scores was counted Sweden, represented by Carola and "Fångad av en stormvind", claimed its third victory since it received five ten-point scores against France's two. The French song "Le Dernier qui a parlé...", performed by Amina, finished second with the smallest-ever losing margin.
Scoring no points
As each participating country casts a series of preference votes, under the current scoring system it is rare that a song fails to receive any votes at all; such a result means that the song failed to make the top ten most-popular songs in any country.
The first zero points in Eurovision were scored in 1962, under a new voting system. When a country finishes with a score of zero, it is often referred to in English-language media as nul points or nil points, albeit incorrectly. Grammatical French for "no points" is pas de points or zéro point, but none of these phrases is used in the contest; no-point scores are not announced by the presenters.
1975 to 2016
The first time a host nation ever finished with nul points was in the 2015 final, when Austria's "I Am Yours" by The Makemakes scored zero. In 2003, following the UK's first zero score, an online poll was held to determine public opinion about each zero-point entry's worthiness of the score. Spain's "¿Quién maneja mi barca?" (1983) won the poll as the song that least deserved a zero, and Austria's "Lisa Mona Lisa" (1988) was the song most deserving of a zero.
In 2012, although it scored in the combined voting, France's "Echo (You and I)" by Anggun would have received no points if televoting alone had been used. In that year's first semi-final, although Belgium's "Would You?" by Iris received two points in the televoting-only hypothetical results the points were from the Albanian jury (since Albania did not use televoting); Belgium would have received no official points from televoting alone. In his book, Nul Points, comic writer Tim Moore interviews several of these performers about how their Eurovision score affected their careers.
Since the creation of a qualifying round (semifinal) in 2004 and an expansion to two semifinals in 2008, more than thirty countries vote each night – even countries which have been eliminated or have already qualified. No points are rarer; it would require a song to place less than tenth in every country in jury voting and televote.
Entries which received no points during the semifinals are:
|2004||Switzerland||Piero Esteriore & The MusicStars||"Celebrate"*|
|2009||Czech Republic||Gypsy.cz||"Aven Romale"|
However, in 2004 France, Poland and Russia did not vote in the semifinal; in 2009 twenty countries voted.[why?]
With the new televoting system being announced in the 2016 contest, nul points in televoting were possible, but not likely, in both the 2016 semifinals there was no country that had no points, but in the final Czech Republic received no televote points, they finished with 41 points in total in the final.
Entries that received no televote points are:
|2012||France||Anggun||"Echo (You and I)"|
|2015||Austria||The MakeMakes||"I Am Yours"|
|2016||Czech Republic||Gabriela Gunčíková||"I Stand"|
No entry in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest has ever received nul points; since 2005, each contestant begins with 12 points to prevent such a result. However, there has not been a situation that the 12 points received in the beginning would have remained as the sole points. On 15 October 2012, it was announced by the EBU, that for the first time in the contest's history a new "Kids Jury" was being introduced into the voting system. The jury consists of members aged between 10 and 15, and representing each of the participating countries. A spokesperson from the jury would then announce the points 1-8, 10 and the maximum 12 as decided upon by the jury members.
Regional bloc voting
Although statistical analysis of the results from 2001 to 2005 suggests regional bloc voting; it is debatable whether this is due to political alliances or a tendency for culturally-close countries to have similar musical tastes. The United Kingdom and France would historically exchange points (an average of 6.5 points per contest), and the UK has also had such a relationship with Ireland. Several countries can be categorised as voting blocs, which regularly award one another high points:
- Greece and Cyprus
- Turkey and Azerbaijan
- English-speaking countries or countries of the Commonwealth: Australia, Malta, Ireland and the United Kingdom
- Austria, Germany and Switzerland
- The Netherlands and Belgium
- Andorra, Portugal and Spain
- The Nordic states: Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland
- The Baltic states: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania
- Romania and Moldova, acting as a bridge between the Balkan and Warsaw Pact states
- The Balkan countries:
- Macedonia and Albania
- The former Yugoslav countries: Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Croatia
- The former USSR countries of Belarus, Ukraine, Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia and Moldova
It is normal if countries award points to their neighbours regularly, even if they are not part of a voting bloc (for example, Finland and Estonia, Germany and Denmark, the Baltic states and Russia or Albania and Greece). Votes may also be based on a diaspora. Greece, Turkey, Poland, Russia and the former Yugoslav countries normally get high scores from Germany or the United Kingdom, Armenia votes from France or Belgium, Poland from Ireland, Romania from Spain and Italy and Albania from Switzerland, Italy and San Marino. Former Eurovision TV director Bjørn Erichsen disagreed with the assertion that regional bloc voting significantly affects the contest's outcome, saying that Russia's first victory in 2008 was only possible with votes from thirty-eight of the participating countries.
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