Comment Writer Caitlin McGraw discusses how the Eurovision voting system has changed over the last few years and why the jury voting system is still important

Written by Caitlin McGraw
2nd year politics and sociology student. lover of all things popular culture <3
Images by Anthony Delanoix

The theme of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest was ‘United by Music’ but fans seem more divided than ever by this year’s results.

Sweden’s Loreen won with ‘Tattoo’, helping her to an unprecedented second win for a female act in Eurovision history. Many national juries awarded Sweden ‘douze points’ but the winning nation did not receive maximum points from any country’s public audience, who instead overwhelmingly favoured Käärijä’s fusion track ‘Cha Cha Cha’.

Currently, final points scores are split equally between jury and public televoting, a system which ensures a broad criterion to minimise bias and consider diverse musical preferences, with this year’s results displaying the distinction between ‘safe songs’ and fun tracks popular with jurors and public voters respectively.

Expert judges with experience in the music industry have played a role in Eurovision since the contest’s inception, but contemporary attitudes and rule changes reflect their increasing unpopularity. Calls to abolish national jury votes were fuelled by their role in unfairly swinging the 2023 victory in Sweden’s favour, by enabling the minority group of five jurors per participating nation to undermine the opinion of millions of viewers. Some fans even conspired that Sweden gaining hosting rights for 2024 was rigged to coincide with the 50-year anniversary of ABBA’s victory.

Calls to abolish national jury votes were fuelled by their role in unfairly swinging the 2023 victory in Sweden’s favour

However, in my opinion, Loreen’s flawless vocals prompted the act to score very highly in both voting systems, indicating Loreen’s win was deserved. The more problematic aspect of Sweden’s victory is that past winners are allowed to compete again which is arguably an unfair advantage. Therefore, reform should be directed to how individual nations select their representatives, to ensure that as the world changes, so do Eurovision’s rules.

Multiple changes implemented in this year’s competition set a precedent for further systemic reforms. Following ‘voting irregularities’ among national juries in 2022, only popular votes were counted in the semi-finals, thus removing national juries from colluding with neighbouring countries. Historically, the best-performing nations have shared linguistic, historical, and geographic bonds with other participating countries; Sweden is a member of the infamously loyal ‘Nordic voting bloc’. However, political votes awarded by countries organised within ‘blocs’ are not fixed, as evidenced by Greece’s surprising deviation from awarding maximum points to Cyprus this year.

The ’rest of the world’ vote also premiered in 2023, to empower global audiences with points equivalent to a participating nation. As Eurovision’s audience grows, the discussion will be enhanced by heterogenous, subjective opinions – I see this as positively aligning with Eurovision’s tradition of diversity and tolerance. 

As Eurovision’s audience grows, the discussion will be enhanced by heterogenous, subjective opinions

However, this vote may still influence biased public voting, as English-speaking viewers are more likely to vote for an Anglocentric song, thus disadvantaging culturally diverse entrants crucial to Eurovision’s spirit. 

In my opinion, voting reforms have made the decision-making process less objective by decentralising unbiased assessments of artistic quality provided by juries, in favour of the global public’s subjective tastes and voting motivations. I believe expert insights and impartial judgements should be preserved, as the current system maintains that a portion of votes are awarded based on musical merit, which ensures the credibility and tradition of Eurovision can be maintained instead of descending into a popularity contest in the age of social media views.

Problems of biased voting decisions contribute to the argument for keeping Eurovision separate from politics, enforced by the European Broadcasting Union’s (EBU) rules banning songs with political references and acts with ideological interests from competing. But I think depoliticising Eurovision is unconvincing, as the contest has been political since its creation to promote post-war harmony. 

The contest has arguably grown more politicised regarding who participates and votes; for example, Russia was expelled in 2022 in an unusually overt political decision from the EBU, whilst Ukraine won the competition based mostly on televoting, with the public arguably voting based on expressing political support rather than artistic merit. Whilst I believe attempting to manage voting biases shaped by corrupt political allegiances is not futile, a competition that allows songs to represent issues such as Croatia’s anti-war song or Austria’s commentary on gender inequality, cannot frame itself as separate from politics of identity and diplomacy.

Ultimately, public outrage on social media is not representative of all voters’ opinions on the current system; I think the populist arguments displayed by abolitionists of jury voting following Sweden’s victory, reflect wider attitudes of distrust and skepticism toward experts in contexts of unstable democracy and questioning election results seen in recent years. Therefore, the EBU’s façade of apolitically must be eliminated to prevent the loss of national juries in the name of appeasing unevidenced conspiracies and exaggerated public discontent following Sweden’s controversial victory.

Read more Comment articles here:

Online Masculinity: What is a Role Model?

Reflections On My Degree

Universal Basic Income; Grasping At Straws?