If you happen to live in a country that's part of the European Broadcasting Union you probably noticed the craze about the Eurovision Song Contest. Its voting system is notorious due to countries forming cliques by frequently voting in the same way. I've decided to research this for myself.
Collecting the data
In order to actually research this phenomenon I needed data. Luckily for me the eurovision website has an amazing archive containing all scoreboards since the 1950s.
I ran into several issues when collecting the data:
The voting system has changed regularly over the past 40 years. I made a choice to drop all results from before 1975, because the douze points system was introduced that year. The voting did change (jury versus televoting), but I decided to ignore that. In the end I collected approximately 24 thousand data points, where each data point consists of a year, giving participant, receiving participant and the amount of points.
Countries split and parts became independent. In the 90s Yugoslavia split into Bosnia & Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia. In turn Serbia & Montenegro became independent in 2006 so they split again. Considering they no longer exist I decided to remove their results from the dataset.
Now that I had all the data I needed I searched for the best way to visualise this. A table wouldn't be able to show it very well so I decided upon using an interactive map of Europe. I've tried two geochart technologies: Google's Geochart and jVectorMap. Geochart was easier to setup, but when setting the option to only show Europe certain countries were no longer clickable (Israel, Azerbaijan, Morocco, to name a few). jVectorMap (JVM) did not have this issue so, after writing a script that changes the dataset to a format JVM can read I went with that option. Access the geoChart version here.. The JVM version is shown belown, but can also be accessed here.
I'm sorry that it doesn't scale at all.
Try clicking on the countries, you should notice several blocks/cliques. Well, sort of, considering I did not pay attention to actual winners and such. These are all averages, so it should say a thing or two though.
The Nordic countries (consisting of Denmark, Island, Finland, Sweden and Norway) tend to give each other an average of about 5 points per year.
Former soviet union republics tend to give their neighbors an extra view votes. The countries closer to Russia (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Moldava) spend on average around 8 of their points on Russia.
Countries in the Balkan Peninsula still give most their points to former Balkan countries (except for Albania, which also has preference for Italian performances). Votes for each other averages to approximately 8 points.
According to Derek Gatherer in 2006 there's a preference between Spain, Portugal and Andorra between 2001 and 2005. This does not seem to be the case for the period of 1975 until 2014.
Most other countries (even the Benelux countries) spread their points evenly amongst all European countries.
In the past 40 years there tends to be cliques when looking at the voting process. I've been able to find 3 major cliques: Nordic countries, Former Soviet Union and the Balkan Peninsula.
Whether there's still clique voting I don't know. I'd have to limit the data to specific intervals to answer this which I may do when I have time.
edit: turns out far more complex research has been done by statistics experts at UCL and Imperial College London quite recently.