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Eurovision and statistics

Eurovision is not only good for extremely cheesy pop, it is also a great source of enduring controversy. Let's see... Australia "won" in the jury vote. Australia would have "won" using the older combined voting system. Russia "won" (by a huge margin) in the public vote. As it turned out, neither of them won. Ukraine did. Which was Big News in Russia (I guess gunfights in graveyards are not noteworthy?) who lodged a complaint with practically everybody who would listen.

The thing that caught my eye, however, was this tweet from the Leave.EU campaign:

Watching #Eurovision on Saturday? More countries outside the EU have won than those inside #LoveEurope

Okay, it's the Brexit crowd, so we'll overlook the obvious bollocks regarding EU membership affecting the songwriting and performance abilities of an entire country; instead we'll take this tweet at face value.

How is this possible? I mean, most of the countries in the contest are EU countries; so wouldn't this slant things in favour of the EU? Add in the whole political voting and neighbourly voting things, wouldn't this make it harder for a non-EU country?

Well, as it happens, it's not hard to get the relevant information. So here's a list of Eurovision winners, and I've colour-coded EU member states:

1956 Switzerland     1957 Netherlands     1958 France
1959 Netherlands     1960 France          1961 Luxembourg
1962 France          1963 Denmark         1964 Italy
1965 Luxembourg      1966 Austria         1967 UK
1968 Spain           1969 Spain / UK / Netherlands / France
1970 Ireland         1971 Monaco          1972 Luxembourg
1973 Luxembourg      1974 Sweden          1975 Netherlands
1976 UK              1977 France          1978 Israel
1979 Israel          1980 Ireland         1981 UK
1982 Germany         1983 Luxembourg      1984 Sweden
1985 Norway          1986 Belgium         1987 Ireland
1988 Switzerland     1989 Yugoslavia      1990 Italy
1991 Sweden          1992 Ireland         1993 Ireland
1994 Ireland         1995 Norway          1996 Ireland
1997 UK              1998 Israel          1999 Sweden
2000 Denmark         2001 Estonia         2002 Latvia
2003 Turkey          2004 Ukraine         2005 Greece
2006 Finland         2007 Serbia          2008 Russia
2009 Norway          2010 Germany         2011 Azerbaijan
2012 Sweden          2013 Denmark         2014 Austria
2015 Sweden
You don't need numbers, the mass of blue indicates that this is going to favour EU countries. In this case, it is 48:13 in favour of EU winners. Note that I count EFTA and microstates as not being EU countries.

 

Okay, well maybe it is by country instead of by win? Okay, let's try this:

Austria
Azerbaijan
Belgium
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Latvia
Luxembourg
Monaco
Netherlands
Norway
Russia
Serbia
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Turkey
UK
Ukraine
Yugoslavia
This comes out at 16:10 in favour of EU countries.

 

Now, thing is, the EU came into being in late 1993 thanks to the Maastricht Treaty (it was known as the EEC prior to that). So let's discount every result prior to 1994, see if this changes things:

1994 Ireland         1995 Norway          1996 Ireland
1997 UK              1998 Israel          1999 Sweden
2000 Denmark         2001 Estonia         2002 Latvia
2003 Turkey          2004 Ukraine         2005 Greece
2006 Finland         2007 Serbia          2008 Russia
2009 Norway          2010 Germany         2011 Azerbaijan
2012 Sweden          2013 Denmark         2014 Austria
2015 Sweden
Well, no. This gives the result 14:8, still slanted in favour of EU countries.

 

Eagle eyed readers will be thinking - hang on, Latvia is an EU country? Yes it is, but wasn't until 2004. So let's revise our results to remove countries that were not EU members at the time of their win (The Netherlands in 1957 is not counted as The Treaty of Rome came into effect on Jan 1st 1958):

1956 Switzerland     1957 Netherlands     1958 France
1959 Netherlands     1960 France          1961 Luxembourg
1962 France          1963 Denmark         1964 Italy
1965 Luxembourg      1966 Austria         1967 UK
1968 Spain           1969 Spain / UK / Netherlands / France
1970 Ireland         1971 Monaco          1972 Luxembourg
1973 Luxembourg      1974 Sweden          1975 Netherlands
1976 UK              1977 France          1978 Israel
1979 Israel          1980 Ireland         1981 UK
1982 Germany         1983 Luxembourg      1984 Sweden
1985 Norway          1986 Belgium         1987 Ireland
1988 Switzerland     1989 Yugoslavia      1990 Italy
1991 Sweden          1992 Ireland         1993 Ireland
1994 Ireland         1995 Norway          1996 Ireland
1997 UK              1998 Israel          1999 Sweden
2000 Denmark         2001 Estonia         2002 Latvia
2003 Turkey          2004 Ukraine         2005 Greece
2006 Finland         2007 Serbia          2008 Russia
2009 Norway          2010 Germany         2011 Azerbaijan
2012 Sweden          2013 Denmark         2014 Austria
2015 Sweden
Having done this, and made it as accurate as possible, to only count an EU country as of when it became an EU country... I still get 35:28 in favour of EU countries.

 

Okay, so let's go back to our post-Maastricht list. What about those countries alone? Okay...

Austria
Azerbaijan
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
Germany
Greece
Ireland
Israel
Latvia
Norway
Russia
Serbia
Sweden
Turkey
UK
Ukraine
Finally. It's 8:9 in favour of non-EU countries, but this is close. I think we're on the right track here, counting countries rather than counting winners. After all, apparently More countries outside the EU have won than those inside - which would be technically true if Russia and Azerbaijan won once each, and Ireland won all of the remaining 59 contests.
So can we do anything more?

Yes, there is one more insidious trick to play. Here goes:

Austria
Austria
Azerbaijan
Belgium
Denmark
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Ireland
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Latvia
Luxembourg
Monaco
Netherlands
Netherlands
Norway
Russia
Serbia
Spain
Spain
Sweden
Sweden
Switzerland
Turkey
UK
UK
Ukraine
Yugoslavia
See what I've done there? I have counted some countries as both EU members and as non-EU members, if they won at any point as being a non-EU member. This is really grasping, but it gives us a nice shiny 14:19 in favour of non-EU countries.

Finally, clever abuse of statistics to make a point, and justify the tweet. However in the course of getting here, we passed through half a dozen other calculations, one of which shows that EU countries do quite well in the contest, in direct contradiction to this last statistic.

 

The moral, at the end of this story, is to be cynical when people definitely quote statistics to prove something. We've seen this in politics, polls, so-called climate science, banks and insurance sales, the list goes on. Remember, that anti-wrinkle cream is 100% effective if you can massage the figures to look at 20 year olds and discount the grannies...

 

My picks

I still like the German song Ghost, the whole spooky fairytale vibe.

The song I listen to the most is Italy's No Degree Of Separation (Nessun grado di separazione). She's pretty, she's animated, she's Italian. And it's a nice song. What's not to like? Well, maybe wonder what the heck she's wearing, but given the above video I think we can gloss right over "eccentric dress sense", don't you?

Now this. This I wish I could forget. I am remembering it way more than I want to. I rather suspect it has fallen somewhere between "so bad it's good" and "unwelcome earworm".

Many of the rest have been forgotten...

Here's a bonus video to enjoy. The above two girls in an interview. Don't worry about the German, it's mostly in English:

 

 

Your comments:

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David Pilling, 22nd May 2016, 02:35
Couple of blue Switerland 1988 above. Maybe the Leave lot could explain their maths to you.
Rick, 22nd May 2016, 12:34
Well spotted! I've corrected that, and adjusted the counts. Which...made no difference... ;-) 

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