Unashamedly cheesy and overly enthusiastic, Eurovision has grown from 7 countries in 1956 to 43 participating this year, attracting 6.85 million average TV viewers. Without a doubt watching Eurovision has become a modern European tradition – but how close has it remained to its original mission to create European unity?
Ahead of last year’s competition, YouGov asked adults across Europe if they believe Eurovision brings Europeans closer together. Swedes and Fins were the most enthusiastic, with a third believing that it succeeds at doing this.
Brits were the most sceptical with only 14% claiming to feel closer to the rest of Europe as a result of Eurovision.
Eurosceptics aren’t necessarily to blame for the low amount of Eurovision enthusiasm in the UK; The poll didn’t indicate a strong correlation between a country’s attitudes towards Eurovision and their political beliefs. For example, 57% of the Norwegians polled thought that their country should continue to participate in the contest, yet only 18% of them said that they would vote to remain in the European Union if asked in a referendum.
If Eurovision isn’t the tool for political progress that it once was, perhaps it has shifted to become a tool for social progress. Last week Imperial College London released research showing how a nation’s participation in the contest is associated with greater life satisfaction amongst citizens. People are 4% more satisfied with their life for every ten-place increase their country achieves on the score board. Even those placing last still reported 13% higher satisfaction than those countries not in the running at all.
These findings are unsurprising given the amount of positive discussion about diversity and inclusivity generated by the contest and its fans. Across social platforms and news forums, all sentiment was 64% positive. This increased to 71% on content including mentions of ‘LGBT’ or ‘transgender’.
However, sentiment became slightly less positive around mentions of ‘Great Britain’ and ‘SuRie’. This year’s stage invasion likely didn’t help to improve Brits’ attitudes towards Eurovision. Only 36% of Brits, the least of all nations polled, think we should continue to compete. Tellingly, 75% of us (more than double the other nations polled) believe that some countries suffer from unfair political voting by other competing countries. We might just be sore losers, and we may care more about Eurovision results than many of us would like to admit.