Since Eurovision is a competition, it’s safe to assume the point is to win. Accordingly, it’s important to consider what makes a winning song and that, of course, depends on the televote and jury vote. So my question is: what motivates peoples’ votes? There’s so much talk about Eurovision being biased and political but there doesn’t seem to be much discussion about how people decide to vote. Here I want to focus on the televote, but maybe we can discuss the jury vote another time.
Ideally, I suppose people should vote for the “best” song since this is a musical competition. The best song is subjective – what I believe is the best and why I do differs from what you think. Some people like upbeat songs, while others like ballads; some people like songs in English, others prefer that countries sing in their native languages. Moreover, for many it’s not necessarily the best song in terms of pure musical quality, but rather the best based on other criteria. For example, I believe Molitva is a better song, in terms of pure musical quality, than Dancing Lasha Tumbai, but I’d be more likely to vote for Ukraine because I think that entry is more fun. Plus, it’s not just the song; the performance can enhance or detract from how much people like an entry.
Realistically, many things go into a voter’s calculus, namely the song, performance, and country. Voters weigh these things, and any other criteria they have when voting, differently. As an American, with no strong loyalty to any participating country, I care more about the song and performance. But I have many European friends who think differently. My Austrian friend who lives in the UK always votes for Austria and then Sweden if Austria isn’t competing. I have another friend from Trieste, Italy who always votes for Slovenia and I knew a French woman who said that, under no circumstances, would she vote for Germany (which is ridiculous because Lena was awesome!).
I’m not saying everyone votes this way, although it’s likely Diasporas vote for their home countries. People weigh things differently when deciding how to vote, but voters likely consider the country-song combination, meaning that voting is inevitably biased. It could be that voters have a certain subset of countries for which they are willing to vote and within that set they choose the best song. I try to think of it as if the 50 states competed. I’m from Maine and if we had a U.S.-vision (which I wholeheartedly support!), I’d be more likely to vote for the other New England states. Maybe if some Midwest state had an amazing song it could trump my geographical affinity for New England, but my vote would likely be for whichever New England state had the best song. This is not to say that because I’d be biased all voters are. The song is likely the most important factor for many people, but given the presence of voting blocs, this likely explains some voting behavior.
The country, song, and performance matter most, although not necessarily in that order. Voters likely have varying weights for each of those. Some people weight the country more heavily than song/performance, while others don’t care at all about the country and decide purely on other criteria. And again, what each voter likes about the song, performance, or country is subjective.
So what this (unsurprisingly) suggests is that if Euphoria had a different beat, if Lordi wasn’t in costume, or if Helena Paparizou stood perfectly still while singing they likely wouldn’t have won. It also suggests that had Only Teardrops been from Malta, rather than Denmark, it would not have won. In terms of the former examples, it’s not necessarily a bad thing they would not have won because song and performance should be decisive in a musical contest; but it’s unfortunate, albeit more interesting, that not all countries have an equal chance of winning regardless of song or performance (in my opinion). This implies that the country of origin is an essential factor in determining the winning song because it influences voters.
Anyway, that’s what I think figures into peoples’ decisions when voting, but I don’t want to speak for everyone. Every year we hear complaints about political voting, but I don’t think anyone has ever really asked the voters. So I’m curious to know how people decide which entry to vote for – is it predetermined that you will vote for a specific country; is it all about the song or performance, and what is it about the song/performance; or is there something else that determines your vote? And, is it a bad thing that people take into account non-song factors when voting? For me, that makes the contest more interesting!