An Economics student’s take on Eurovision

In elementary and middle school social studies/history was my best subject. It was there that I learned Europe was an ancient place full of high culture. Europe was Beethoven’s 5th Symphony, Shakespeare’s plays, Michelangelo’s David, and Eiffel’s tower. Then I moved there for a year, and realized all of the history books could not prepare me for the pinnacle, the consummation, the true summit of culture… The Eurovision Song Contest!

Congratulations to this year’s winner, Denmark.

Eurovision 2013 winner Emmelie de Forest of Denmark on stage. Picture: Sander Hesterman (EBU)

Eurovision 2013 winner Emmelie de Forest of Denmark on stage.
Picture: Sander Hesterman (EBU)

The Eurovision song contest is something so European, it just can’t be understood by non-Europeans; however it doesn’t matter they seem to understand it. Where does the kitschy melodramatic pop music come from, and why would a country want to win an award for it? Please note, if this insults you, I come from the state that foisted the likes of both N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys on the world. However, the Eurovision does have some important aspects. It was created after the second world war to bring Europeans together.

Another important aspect, of particular interest to students of Economics (as well as political science, and game theory) is the voting system for Eurovision. This gentleman explains some of the statistical nuances. I am no expert on voting systems, but my first impression. The Eurovision Song contest’s voting system isn’t “fair.”

A few reasons I had noticed:

  • Nations all get the same number of votes regardless of population. Switzerland with ~7million inhabitants gets to distribute the same as Germany with ~80million inhabitants
  • Countries with large expatriate populations often cast votes for their country of origin, regardless of musical merit.
  • Eurovision contestants must strategize to win. It seems the strategy, with one notable exception, is to perform something that appeals to the most possible people. That’s not bad, it isn’t the Beatles though. However because so many acts are so similar, some countries adopt the opposite strategy and do something outrageously different.
  • Voting is done by telephone text message. If my memory serves me, it cost to text a vote. People who feel passionately enough about the songs probably do not reflect the median viewer of the program.

Of course, there is no such thing as a “fair” voting system. In fact, if one were inclined to think of an odd American institution to match Eurovision, it might be our Electoral College. It certainly generates some kitschy melodrama as well. But I am an American, and I understand that institution.

Jay is studying the Diploma for Graduates in Economics by distance learning with the University of London International Programmes. He lives in Florida, USA.

2 thoughts on “An Economics student’s take on Eurovision

  1. The voting system in Europe is explained in the Game Theory by the Department of Mathematics at Birbeck College on the mathematics Degree by Andrew Bowler and Iam looking to do the BSc in Finance/Accounting by London Internal linked with LSE. I live in London.

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  2. Yes Andrew Bowler Is aptly right, if I could combine Game theory and The Nash equilibrium to explain the tusami rippling behind to hit the finanancial markets very soon . The Brexit is an indication of the shift of the technotics plates , then I shll make my way to LSE. It will be sad, melancholic, a word coined by theWelsh author, DYland Thomas, but no regret but a challenge to venture into the world of Finance. Satirism will be a powerful instrument to nurture idealism into a world of realism which is not culturalism at Birbeck which the course tutor has to decipher.

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