Don’t Blame the Draw, Europe was Just Not That in to You

In the rush to explain why their favorite contestant failed to win, Eurovision fans frequently blame the starting order. But does performing early really hurt a singer’s chances?

In the aftermath of Eurovision, every country (except Sweden) is blaming external factors as the reason they didn’t finish first. And one of the standard whipping boys is drawing an early starting position. Sorry all: That has nothing to do with it. Absolutely nothing.

Let’s look first at the 2012 final. This year was one of the best ever, so it was an incredibly competitive vote—even if Loreen won in a landslide. I think most people could easily list three to five acts they wanted to see tie for first, and another five to ten they found almost as good. But how did the draw vs. place results come out?

This chart plots the results by comparing draw and place. If draw impacted place then you would see the points grouped around a line stretching from the upper left to the lower right. What you see here is a random scattershot.

Now let’s look at 2011, which was a collection of tired and uninspired acts (25 Englebert Humperdinck’s). Probably one of the worst ever. And so once again it was very competitive because it was a battle for who sucked least. And how did the results come out here?

Once again we see a scattershot result. No statistical correlation between draw and place. So sorry all: You can’t blame the draw. Yes, Engelbert Humperdinck went first and finished next-to-last. But Tooji performed 12th and he finished one lower.

There are two pieces of good news in this. First, the way the voting is handled clearly eliminates any bias by draw. I think part of this is the delay after the end of the last act where they show highlights of all of them before opening the voting lines. Second, acts can stop stressing over their draw as it has no impact.

I also think countries need to get a grip. There’s only going to be one country taking first. And this year the acts were so amazing that France, which had a really good entry, got 22nd place. (Although how the hell Russia and Turkey got into the final is beyond me.) Yes be thrilled when your country has a great act. But realize that in years like this, when there are so many amazing acts, your favorite is still contesting the most competitive musical event in the world.

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