Thursday, 21 April 2016

Do the polls lie?

As I Brit, I'm naturally expected to ask this question after our GE of 2015 when all preview polls told porkies and everyone was a little surprised by the polarisation in the result. A year on and we're all like "of course the polls were wrong...duh!" but it begs the question of ESC; do the polls lie?

I consider myself a mega fan since 2009. In 2009, I sought all songs pre-contest and ranked them and loved them and ah it was amazing. Then the UK came 5th and that definitely helped my love for the contest. 2011 is arguably the best contest ever, 2012 saw me blog as a result of that, we had Euphoria, and well, the rest you know...

So when it comes to considering the polls, I'll start by taking a look back to the '09 contest to try and reflect what was really happening pre-contest. The ESC World had a big bang on social media in 2011, and wasn't anywhere near as big back in 2009. But I can feel people disagreeing with me already, but come on, ESC wasn't anywhere near as big on social media in 2009 as it is now. Fact(!)

2009 proved to be Norway's Fairytale

As we entered the 2009 contest, there were two bookie favourites; Norway and Greece. The Greeks were represented by Sakis Rouvas who had already come 3rd in 2004 with popular dance song "Shake It". He had then hosted the 2006 contest, and he was a household name. Still is a household name. However his 2009 entrant "This Is Our Night"was being dwarfed in polls by "Fairytale" for Norway, even though it was a good 2nd in many online polls. After the rehearsals, "Fairytale" was a shoe in for victory, and well, we all know the rest. It's has the record for the biggest points win ever. It seems the polls were right.

Other highly placed finishers in 2009 also finished well in polls, and you'd be hard pushed to find a poll that has Iceland, Azerbaijan, Turkey, and even the UK and Estonia outside the top 10/15.

Did Satellite enjoy an expected victory?

Moving on to 2010, and "Satellite" really didn't steam to victory. Germany pulled off a relatively unchallenged win nonetheless, with Turkey, Romania, Denmark, Azerbaijan and Belgium rounding up a fairly 'safe' top six.

Romania and Belgium were a little surprising to finish as high as they did based on pre-contest polls, but the big casualty was Harel Skaat's "Milim" finishing as low as 14th. However, he was by no means a runaway favourite and in fact the polls were very close that year. You'd be hard pressed to find one of the big polls ranking Germany outside the top 5, and a lot had Germany to win. It seems the polls had it around-about pretty spot on, in otherwise a pretty unspectacular year.

2011 had Kati Wolf left thinking; "What about my dreams the POLLS!?"

2011 comes round and I'm biased to talk about it really because I became heavily invested and delighted by the fantastic show. I think the 2011 contest was the best ever, but you already know that. I mentioned in "the biggest fan flops of all time" that undoubtedly Hungary's dramatically low finish is up there with the best flops, but the polls all around were pretty out of it. Kati Wolf may have won a lot of polls, but Estonia were doing well (especially with the bookies), France were the bookies hot fave and were a poll top tenner quite consistently, and even the UK were expected to do so much better. In the end, we all know Azerbaijan stole the show, but for songs this was an incredibly strong year and the polls were very close at points.

What is paramount though, is that Azerbaijan were consistently featured in many top 10s and there was universal acclaim for ESC fans alike that it was a good song and deserved to do well. They didn't start the ESC season well, but by the time we got to Eurovision  Week it was a popular song. People lament them winning, but they frequently appeared high in polls, they just weren't expected to win.

But I think we can say that the polls lied in 2011.


2012 comes around and Euphoria won everything pre-contest, it won everything at the contest, and we really need not say anything about 2012. Perhaps the biggest flop was Pastora Soler for Spain, but 2012 was remembered for being slightly ballad heavy, and that's the biggest case we have for Spain not doing better.

Those who didn't rate Denmark were left with only teardrops

2013 happens and Emmelie de Forest is storming everything for Denmark. The polls start to become a bit more skewed at this point though, with fans swarming for San Valentina - but there was never any real doubt about the winner. The staging was beautiful and looking back through the results, it all seems to make sense.

Fantastrophes in 2014? No, just Conchita...

As a UK fan going into 2014, I was delighted to see Molly not just doing well, but winning a lot of polls. I thought there might be a chance. The bookies had Armenia to win, a lot of people thought Hungary might steal it, everyone predicted a strong finish for Sweden, and the biggest fantastrophe was Israel not qualifying (which is not that great a surprise honestly). But we all fell for the Common Linnets, I had them in my top 10 but was not surprised to see them so low in so many polls, and confess that I didn't see them having much of a chance. And then the performance was just absolute magic, turning a track into pure gold, and on hindsight we're all like "duh!".

And then the Conchita effect. With hindsight, I can't believe I wasn't predicting a win for Austria. It is so obvious post-contest. The performance definitely helped, as the performance is absolutely stunning, but it was Conchita. Of course she was going to win, she was everything at the contest, it was just Conchita... and this was despite not doing that great in polls.

In the end the polls failed to predict success for Austria and the Netherlands. But the polls failed to consider what Conchita Wurst was actually achieving that year, and there was scepticism whether countries like Russia would vote for her. They did, the whole of Eastern Europe did and all fans have learned their lesson.

"Goodbye to victory, there would only be Heroes"

Finally we move into 2015, and Heroes was doing well all over the shot. It was winning most polls, and where it wasn't, the place was often filled by Italy or Estonia. Estonia were unlucky in the end, I think Russia and Italy's draw definitely helped, and Estonia just performed a bit too early for such a heavy 27-song show. However, Russia were predicted to do extremely well, even if the fans didn't rate the song as highly as others. And when it comes to the performance, Estonia is just a bit flat live. Especially when you compare it to the performances of Sweden, Russia, Italy, Belgium and even Australia. It was hard to predict Sweden or Italy not winning, and at the end of the day, if we didn't have juries, Italy would have won the contest. So it seems once more, the polls can hardly be accused of lying.

Dr Chris: Fixing the 2016 Problems?

So how can we apply that to the 2016 season? Well have a look at the polls floating around. Over the next 3 weeks, the Eurovision world on social media will play host to thousands of returning semi-fans, and thousands of brand new fans. The polls are still relatively under-spoken, and the full magnitude of the Eurovision fan world is, I think, just beginning to kick off. It'll be bigger and better than any year previous, and due to that, I think let's hold off reading too much into the polls for another week, and give the bookies a look in about two weeks to start to get a real reflection of what's happening.

That being said, I'll have a crack. Anyone who has seen my page or follows me on Twitter at all knows that I have France and Russia as a lofty one-two. But you can hardly deny that France-Russia are the top two in just about every poll, they are the bookies favourites, and they really are starting to pull away from the rest. The likes of Croatia, Australia, Bulgaria, Iceland and Spain are filling up many top fives, and the overall standard of songs this year is pretty average. The real decisive factor appears to be Ukraine, who are a bit Marmite; you either love it or you hate it.

There is no Conchita effect going on; the standard isn't the greatest so there is little chance of a 2011 repeat; so we can presume based on recent history, that the polls won't be too far out. This leads me to state that both Russia and France will secure top five finishes at minimum.

Neither of the songs are Euphoria, and France-Russia have too much popularity in a ratio comparable to the rest, so we wont see a Milim style flop. The biggest risk for them is to suffer a flop similar to Estonia last year. I think we can all agree that won't happen to Russia, which will for the most part, have undeniably flawless production. France will be a wholly unknown quantity for the broadcasters to predict whether they can win, but the draw won't effect whether this can win or not. We already know this has got crowds at preview shows in full song and dance so will be performed to a very warm reception to TV viewers on the night.

The Innocence of Passion

I appreciate my next comment does have bias because I want France to win; but anyone calling the song "overrated" is, I believe, being naive and to some extent, immature. In 2012, I thought Euphoria was good but was upset because at the time I believe that 2012 was such a strong year and Euphoria didn't deserve to "runaway" with it. Ultimately, I wanted more of a contest. However I wasn't that big a fool to not rate the song, and had it firmly in my top ten. Fast forward to 2013, and Denmark were stealing the pre-contest race, albeit not as strongly as Sweden the year before. Again, I was perhaps a little devastated simply because I didn't think the song deserved to have such a lead because the songs were better once again. For that reason, I actually de-valued the quality of Only Teardrops, calling it the biggest overrated song in the contest.

A few years on from that, and I can't believe that those were my opinions, (1) because Euphoria makes literally everyone euphoric, (2) Only Teardrops is just lovely, and (3) 2012, and 2013 moreso, are with hindsight not that strong. The reason I say it's therefore naive to think France is overrated and isn't going to win, is simply because 2016 just isn't that good a year. People have the same songs over and over again in their top 10. I'm not talking about #1 favourites, I'm talking about top tens, which is something we all love to do because each country at Eurovision awards their top ten their points. For this reason, there are a good handful of countries who could finish top 3, and therefore appear a threat at winning. There are too many songs this year, like 2013, that don't have that "pulling, favouritism" power, especially in comparable quantity to France/Russia. For example, ESC Stats holds the top 10 polled this year with 49.3% of 'favourites', compared to last year's top 10 holding 65.2%. There were too many songs last year that were favourites, reflecting the strength in year and demonstrating why the polls this year are going to be favourably accurate in forseeing a French or Russian win. This is because their strength in popularity plays far greater magnitude in a comparable ratio to other songs.

The polls are a distinct reflection of epistemologically, portraying with authenticity, a positivist choice of quality. They demand an interpretation due to lacking any real ability to assume other's autonomy, and simply, Eurovision has taught me the interpretation can only be assumed as passion. The controversy, the debates, the intensity amongst fans pre-contest has never been so consuming, which can only be depicted as passion. For this reason, I celebrate a naive "overrated" comment. If France or Russia don't win the contest, I'll be damned. But for those saying it is overrated are simply evoking the passion of the contest; you want there to be more of a contest as you don't rate it as highly. And for those saying you "can't see France or Russia winning" you are simply being naive. They are winning the pre-contest polls pretty much everywhere, France are starting to really assail a lead over Russia, and so to say you cant see either of them winning is just optimistically wishing neither would. I'm sorry, but it's true.

What happens when Serhat steals victory and you Chris, look like a complete idiot?

I welcome it. For the very reasons I have laid out, my support for France and Russia will look entirely passionate. If I'm going to be very wrong after the final then so be it! I think there's a good chance they won't both finish top two, simply because there are arguments against both. France's just might not come across as great live, and Russia's lyrics might disenchant the ordinary voter. But I'm not going to start building a defence if my arguments for them winning humiliate me. I'll say it again, humiliation is part and parcel of being a Eurovision fan, because a true fan follows with passion and integrity, and those are two character traits you should never be afraid or ashamed of.

With love.

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