What is the extent to which a country's political institutions impact aggregate voting behavior in a comparative perspective? More specifically, are citizens in some countries more inclined vote on the basis of ‘quality’ or ‘merit’ over ‘friendship’ or ‘loyalty’, and if so, why? This paper seeks to address how the extent to which a country's political institutions are impartial (treats all citizens equally, free from corruption, strong rule of law) impact aggregate citizen behavior. When political institutions are more (less) impartial, success in society is more often on the basis of merit (patrimonial ties). This test cases is voting in the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC) from 1975 to 2012 among pairs and blocs of ‘voting friends’. The theory elucidates that given that certain pairs or blocs exhibit systematic voting bias for one another over time, the bias will be considerably less among impartial states than those with highly partial institutions. Using several measures of ‘friendship’, I find strong empirical evidence for this claim, even when controlling for myriad alternative factors and taking into account various voting regimes. The analysis gives us new insights on how political institutions condition aggregate citizen behavior in general and that although there is much bias in ESC voting, not all bias is equal among friend-countries.