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Israeli singer Eden Golan. Alamy Stock Photo

Ireland's '10 points' for Israel shouldn't surprise anyone - a pollster explains why

Some eyebrows were raised on Saturday when it emerged Ireland had awarded its second-highest number of points to Israel.

AMID ALL THE social media praise for the performance of Bambie Thug in Saturday night’s Eurovision final, there was also some surprise expressed among viewers at the fact that televoters in Ireland awarded ten points to Israel. 

The debate over Israel’s presence at the contest featured prominently in Eurovision news coverage in Ireland and elsewhere. In the months leading up to the contest there was a well-supported campaign calling on RTÉ to boycott the event due to the country’s presence, and two major protests took place Malmö, the Eurovision host city, last week.

Comments by Bambie Thug on the issue also made the headlines on a number of occasions throughout the contest.

Acknowledging the prominence of the issue this year the Director General of contest organisers the EBU, Irishman Noel Curran, conceded at the weekend that it had not been “a completely normal Eurovision”.

While Ireland’s ten points for Israel may have raised eyebrows among some viewers on Saturday night, people familiar with Eurovision voting patterns were far from surprised. 

Several factors at play

The public vote makes up half of the votes awarded to each act, with the other half coming from national juries made up of industry experts.

The televoting is, obviously, likely to reflect a certain amount of public sentiment on whatever geopolitical issues might be gripping the wider European region in any particular year. Back in 2022, for instance, 439 of Ukraine’s 631 points came from the viewers.  

“If Israel itself was on the ballot – let’s say if it was a referendum on the behaviour of Israel – you have one Israeli option and 24 other or non-Israel options,” Kevin Cunningham, lecturer in politics at TU Dublin and pollster with Ireland Thinks, explained.  

“That means at the end of the day that one option is going to consolidate all the support for Israel and the non-Israeli options are going to be more diffuse and more diluted in terms of those choices.

“Previous results in previous years would show that initially one would only need 13% or 14% of the vote typically to come second in a contest like this.

“So again, you only need a relatively small percentage of the vote to actually come second, which is what ’10 points’ required. You essentially do not need to be universally popular to get a high ranking in a system like this.”

malmo-sweden-bambie-thug-representing-ireland-in-the-green-room-during-the-voting-during-the-final-of-the-68th-edition-of-the-eurovision-song-contest-esc-at-the-malmo-arena-in-malmo-sweden Ireland's Bambie Thug during the voting section of the Eurovision final. TT News Agency / Alamy Live News TT News Agency / Alamy Live News / Alamy Live News

Israel finished fifth overall in the contest with Ireland in sixth. 

Ireland’s 12 points on Saturday night went to Croatia, one of the pre-contest favourites. Ukraine were awarded eight points from the televoters – again no surprise, given the large Ukrainian community now in Ireland combined with the fact that the song was also highly regarded. Irish viewers awarded six points to contest winner Nemo of Switzerland. 

Another factor to take into account when it comes to Eurovision voting is – for want of a better term – turnout. According to Cunningham:

“So when we think of elections, the people that turn out and vote are the ones who are a little bit more motivated to turn out.

“In a typical election, you might have 50%, 60% or 70% of people voting and they’re the ones who are more interested in the outcome.

“In the Eurovision, we can estimate from previous Eurovisions that about 6% of people  who watch the Eurovision actually cast a vote – and the number of people who watch is itself a small subset of the population.

“Normally in referendums when turnout goes below 35% the results can become a bit skewed – so in this case the difference between the 6% and the 94% who are actually watching and not voting can be quite different.”

However, the factor that makes most difference to the result is the fact that people can vote up to 20 times. A number of people – in Ireland and elsewhere – took to X/Twitter on Saturday to say they had voted 20 times. In some cases they said they had voted more than that across various devices.

“So you might have some people who might vote once or twice for a range of songs that they might or might not like. And then you have people who will vote 20 times for a very specific song or country.

“By definition that means that someone with a very extreme like for a country or song will have an oversized influence on the outcome,” Cunningham explained.

Voting in the Eurovision is open to all competing countries, but there’s also a ‘Rest of World’ voting option. The results from those televotes are treated in the same way as the results of one voting nation and added to the scores. 

Israel got 12 points from a total of 14 countries, and from the Rest of World category.

It emerged over the weekend that as part of a campaign to garner votes for the country Israel’s consulate general in New York had paid for an ad over Times Square calling on people to vote for singer Eden Golan and noting that they could vote up to 20 times.

On Sunday, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu told singer Golan she had  “received almost the highest number of votes from the public”. 

“This is the most important thing, not from the judges but from the public, and you held Israel’s head up high in Europe. You have brought immense pride to the state of Israel and the people of Israel.”

Amid a row between Israeli broadcaster Kan and the EBU over the lyrics of their intended song earlier this year, the country’s president stepped in and ordered that the lyrics be changed so that Israel could compete. Kan said the President had emphasised “that it is precisely at a time when those who hate us are seeking to repress and boycott the State of Israel” that the country “must raise its voice” in international forums.

Those supporting a boycott of the Eurovision due to Israel’s presence have accused the the Netanyahu government of using art as a propaganda tool.

Polling on Gaza conflict 

51% of respondents to a poll carried out by Ireland Thinks on behalf of the Irish Independent in November of last year said that their sympathies in the Gaza conflict lay more with the Palestinian side. 29% said they lay with both sides equally, and 10% said they lay with the Israeli side. As part of the same survey, 65% of people agreed Ireland should procribe Hamas as a terrorist organisation. 

In a poll carried out by Red C for the Business Post in March, 59% of respondents said they were in favour of boycotting Israeli goods with just 17% against. No scientific polling has been conducted on the question of Ireland boycotting the Eurovision.

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