The Financial Times Searches for a Better Election Map

The Financial Times
The Financial Times

Martin Stabe of the Financial Times looks at the paper’s options for displaying the 2016 U.S. presidential results. Which to use, map or cartogram? In the end, neither: they’re going with a dot map—a compromise “that attempts to take the best from the other methods.”

The white underlying geographic map places states in their familiar size, shape and location, allowing them to be identified quickly. Using a cluster of dots rather than a solid fill to represent the outcome ensures that the amount of red and blue on the map accurately reflects states’ weight in the election outcome, rather than the (irrelevant) surface area.

Like the tiled grid cartogram, the number of electoral votes in each state is easy to compare visually without counting or interpreting numbers printed on the map. Because each electoral vote is a discrete mark, it is possible to accurately represent the split electoral votes that are possible in Maine and Nebraska, or the possibility of a faithless elector.

Technical details and source code here.

Previously: A Primer on Election Map CartographyMore Election Cartography Primers.

Electionland Map Tracks Search Interest in Voting Issues

electionland

The Electionland Google Trends map visualizes voting issues during today’s electoral process. It’s based on real-time Google search interest (rather than actual reported problems) in five issues: inactive voter status, long wait times, provisional ballots, voting machine problems and voter intimidation. More about the map and how it works. [Maps Mania]

Gerrymandered Congressional Districts

wapost-gerrymander
The Washington Post (2014)

In 2014 the Washington Post’s Christopher Ingraham reported on the most gerrymandered congressional districts in the United States. The article was accompanied by an interactive map, showing the compactness score Ingraham calculated for each district—the more compact an electoral district, the less likely it’s a gerrymander. [Dave Smith]

(Gerrymandering—manipulating electoral district boundaries for political advantage—has been a frequent topic here on The Map Room. Previous entries include ‘There Is More to Gerrymandering Than Ugly Shapes’The New York Times on GerrymanderingGerrymandering in FloridaMore on Gerrymandering and Computer-Generated DistrictsComputer-Generated Electoral Districts ReduxGerrymandering as Computer Game and U.S. Electoral District Ballot Initiatives.)

Two Looks Back at the 2012 Results

Before we’re inundated by the results from the 2016 U.S. presidential election, here are a couple of looks back at the 2012 election that explore the results from slightly different angles.

2012-by-population

This map shows the county-by-county results but the intensity is by raw vote totals, not percentages: the darker the colour, the more actual votes there are. It’s an attempt to compensate for counties of different sizes, but you still end up with distortions if the county is both large and populous. [Maptitude]

reddit-rurald-urbanr

Most Democratic strength is in the cities; most Republican strength is in rural areas. This map depicts the opposites: the urban counties won by Mitt Romney in 2012 and the rural counties where Obama won. [Maps on the Web]

More Election Cartography Primers

nyt-foldout-map
The New York Times

Today, print subscribers to the New York Times were treated to a fold-out map showing a choropleth map of the 2012 election results at the ZIP code level (above). “The map is part of a special election section that aims to help explain the political geography of the United States — identifying where people who are conservative and liberal live and pointing out how physical boundaries, like the Rio Grande and the Cascade Mountains, often align with political ones,” writes the Times’s Alicia Parlapiano.

Parlapiano’s piece is in fact a lengthy tutorial on how to read election maps, along the lines of the pages I linked to in last week’s post on election map cartography—it outlines the problems of state-level election maps and choropleth maps that privilege area over population, for example, and shows some other ways of depicting the results.

It can’t be a coincidence that in today’s Washington Post we have Lazaro Gamio’s article dramatically highlighting the difference between area and population size with comparative maps. Mark Newman’s cartograms also make an appearance.

I can only conclude that both the Times and the Post are making efforts to educate their readers before the election results start coming in, one week from tonight. (Deep breath.)

A Primer on Election Map Cartography

With less than two weeks before the 2016 U.S. presidential election, it’s time for a refresher on election map cartography, particularly in the context of U.S. presidential elections.

Cartograms

2012 U.S. presidential results. At right, a cartogram scaled by electoral vote. Maps by Mark Newman.
2012 U.S. presidential results. At right, a cartogram scaled by electoral vote. Maps by Mark Newman.

Let’s start with the basics: at All Over the Map, Greg Miller explains the problem with U.S. presidential election maps—big states with few electoral votes look more important than smaller states with more votes—and introduces the idea of the cartogram: a map distorted to account for some variable other than land area.

Here are some cartograms of the 2012 U.S. presidential results (see above). Previously: Cartograms for the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election Results.

The Map That Started It All

Scribner's statistical atlas of the United States,
Plate 11: Popular Vote: 1880. From Fletcher W. Hewes and Henry Gannett, Scribner’s Statistical Atlas of the United States, 1883. Library of Congress.

Back in 2014, Susan Schulten looked at the map that may have started it all: an 1883 choropleth map of the 1880 U.S. presidential results (see above) that shows results not only on a county-by-county basis, but also the amount the winning candidate won by.

The map may not look advanced today, but in 1883 it broke new ground by enabling Americans to visualize the spatial dynamics of political power. Readers responded enthusiastically. One reviewer pointed to the Republican counties in Arkansas—something left invisible on a map of the Electoral College returns—and wondered what other oddities of geography and history might be uncovered when election returns were more systematically measured. In other words, the map revealed spatial patterns and relationships that might otherwise remain hidden, or only known anecdotally. Perhaps its no coincidence that at the same time the two parties began to launch more coordinated, disciplined, nationwide campaigns, creating a system of two-party rule that we have lived with ever since.

(This map also inverts the modern colours for the two main U.S. political parties: here the Democrats are red and the Republicans are blue. Those colours were standardized only fairly recently.) [Geolounge]

Rethinking Election Map Design

Back to Greg Miller, who has a roundup of different kinds of election maps throughout history, including the maps we’ve seen here so far, Andy Woodruff’s value-by-alpha maps (previously) and others.

For other ways of mapping election results, see this gallery of thematic maps, which includes things like 3D choropleth maps, dot density maps, and all kinds of variations on cartograms and choropleth maps. There’s more than one way to map an election. [Andy Woodruff]

Mapping Clinton and Trump’s Upside Potential (Whatever That Means)

538-upside

Earlier this month FiveThirtyEight built a county-by-county model showing where both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump’s “upside potential” — by which they meant where they would each benefit from the shifts in the electoral landscape. Compared to 2012, Clinton is underperforming with non-college-educated whites and Trump is underperforming with Asians, African-Americans, Latinos and college educated whites.

To get a handle on how these shifts could affect the electoral landscape, we modeled how many of Romney’s votes came from college-educated whites and minorities and how many of Obama’s votes came from non-college-educated whites in each state, county and congressional district. The difference between these two vote totals, shown in the map above, can tell us where Clinton and Trump have the most potential to build on 2012.

The authors went on to game out what that might look like in terms of the electoral vote if one in five voters in those shifting groups switched allegiances.

Trump, Clinton and the Gender Gap

A pronounced gender split is emerging in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Based on national polls in October, Nate Silver writes, “on average, Clinton leads Trump by 15 percentage points among women while trailing him by 5 points among men. How would that look on the electoral map?” Silver does a quick-and-dirty estimation by adding or subtracting 10 points to/from the FiveThirtyEight forecast. Moving 10 points to Clinton’s column approximates what the electoral map would look like if only women voted:

538-womenvoted

Moving those 10 points to Trump’s column approximates the results if only men voted:

538-menvoted

You’ve almost certainly seen these maps make the rounds of social media. This is where they came from and how they were made.

‘There Is More to Gerrymandering Than Ugly Shapes’

On the liberal political blog Daily Kos, Stephen Wolf argues that it takes more than a weirdly shaped electoral district to make a gerrymander:

Land does not vote and we can’t judge gerrymanders simply based on geometry. Districts aren’t just abstract shapes on a map, but collections of actual people and voters. Ultimately, the outcomes produced by a particular map matter far more than a map’s appearance. Comparing the actual congressional districts to plausible alternatives in Maryland and other states demonstrates both how gerrymandering is more complex than merely grotesque shapes, and that Maryland is far from the worst partisan gerrymander nationwide.

Fantasy Football and Election Maps

Development Seed’s Anna Scalamonga discusses the work they did on the Washington Post’s live interactive election maps. “Our challenge was to build a real-time data app that engages users and make it easy to track the most important information. Inspired by interactions and visual presentation from fantasy football apps, we designed tools for live election tracking that make it clear when the data is changing and provide contextual information to make these changes understandable.”

Cartastrophe on Decision Desk HQ’s Election Cartograms

michigan-primary-cartogramOn Cartastrophe, Daniel Huffman points out the problems in Decision Desk HQ’s interactive cartograms for the U.S. presidential primaries, which maintain a state’s shape but resize the counties as the results come in. “Unfortunately, in so doing, they shuffle the counties around any old which way. The Lower Peninsula of Michigan has 68 counties in reality, the Upper Peninsula has 15. But Decision Desk HQ has shoved most of the counties into the Upper Peninsula, which now has 58, vs. 25 that remain in the Lower Peninsula,” Huffman writes. “This means that we can’t really see spatial patterns, which is sort of the point of having a map.” [via]

The Cartography Behind Super Tuesday

Further to my last post, here’sNew York Times article on the technology behind their Super Tuesday election map.

There was a time, not too long ago, when our Super Tuesday map would have been impossible to put together and display. Even earlier in the digital era, a complete vote-totals map wouldn’t have been available until every ballot was counted at the end of the night. (Not to mention that in the print-only era, no map would be available until two days after the vote, and then often only in black and white.)

The New York Times Maps the U.S. Presidential Primaries

The New York Times graphics department invariably does first-rate work, and their interactive maps of the U.S. presidential primary and caucus results are no exception. You can zoom in, you can get results by county or congressional district (depending on the state), you can choose to view margin of victory (see screencaps below) or each candidate’s vote share.

The Democratic candidates as of March 9:

nyt-primary-d

And the Republican candidates:

nyt-primary-r

The Facebook Primary

facebook-primary

FiveThirtyEight maps the Facebook likes of the U.S. presidential candidates: “If Facebook likes were votes, Bernie Sanders would be on pace to beat Hillary Clinton nationwide by a nearly 3-to-1 margin and Donald Trump to garner more support than Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio combined. Anything seems possible this year, but, still, be careful how you interpret these numbers: Facebook likes are not votes.” They ain’t kidding—Ben Carson?! [via]