United States of Apathy

United States of Apathy (Philip Kearney)

In April amateur cartographer Philip Kearney created “United States of Apathy,” a map that imagined the 2016 U.S. presidential election results if nonvoters were counted as a vote for “nobody,” in which case “nobody” would have won the electoral college by a landslide. Esri cartographer Jim Herries recently collaborated with Kearney on an interactive version that explores the phenomenon of apathetic voters in more depth. [CityLab]

xkcd’s 2018 Midterm Challengers Map

The web comic xkcd has done maps before (and I’ve covered most of them) but Friday’s iteration was a departure all the same: an interactive map of the challengers in the 2018 U.S. midterm elections: the larger the candidate’s name, the more significant the office and the better their odds of winning. Remember, these are only the challengers: no incumbents are listed.

Electing the House of Representatives, 1840-2016

There’s a lot of stuff relevant to our interests on the website of the University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab, and it’s hard to know what to begin with. One of the more recent projects, which CityLab saw fit to link to yesterday, is an interactive map showing elections to the U.S. House of Representatives from 1840 to 2016. It’s the kind of project that the user can get very, very lost in. In addition to the usual map of U.S. congressional districts, the site can also visualize the districts as a dot map to minimize the empty-land-doesn’t-vote problem (they call it a cartogram: it isn’t). There’s also a timeline showing the overall results over time at a glance; selecting a district gives shows how the district voted in past contests as a line graph. In other words: quite a lot of data, economically presented.

An Interactive Map of the Quebec Election Results

CBC News’s interactive map of last month’s provincial election in Quebec gives us a detailed look at who won each poll, and by how much (percentages, not raw numbers), and compares those results with those from the 2014 election. The map highlights where the pockets of support for each of Quebec’s parties can be found; comparing those pockets with the 2014 results is quite revealing. (The 2018 election was a bit of a watershed, as support bled from the established Liberal Party and Parti Québecois to the upstart CAQ, which won, and Québec Solidaire.) Here’s the accompanying story from CBC News.

Previously: Mapping the Quebec Election Results.

What If Only … Voted: 2018 Edition

FiveThirtyEight looks at the polling data for the upcoming 2018 midterm elections and imagines the results for the U.S. House of Representatives if only women, men, nonwhite voters and white voters by education level voted. It’s a thought exercise they’ve indulged in before, with the presidential race in 2016, and it serves to indicate the demographic divide in voting intentions. (Cartographically, the maps suffer from the usual problem of U.S. election maps of congressional districts—large, sparsely populated districts in the middle of the country dominate the map.)

Previously: Trump, Clinton and the Gender Gap; What If Only … Voted?

Mapping the Quebec Election Results

CBC News

These CBC News infographics explore the results of last week’s provincial election in Quebec, comparing the vote share of the political parties among key socioeconomic and linguistic populations where there were the highest correlations. The maps are constituency level and use a modified hexagon grid to control for population density. [Canadian Geographers]

Studying How and Why Maps Go Viral

Geographer Anthony Robinson is studying the phenomenon of viral maps—maps that are widely disseminated on social media, many of which are terrible: superficial, inaccurate or deliberately misleading. One burst of virality occurred in November 2016, when there was an eruption of maps, some silly, others dead serious, showing the outcome of the U.S. presidential election “if only x voted” (where x was women, or people of colour, or some other demographic). This episode is apparently one of the subjects of Robinson’s paper in Cartography and Geographic Information Science, in which he sketches out a framework for evaluating viral maps’ design and the ways they spread. The paper is behind a paywall, but here’s a news article about it from Penn State, where Robinson works.

Previously: When Maps Lie; How to Circulate a Fake Election Map; What If Only … Voted?; Bad Internet Maps: ‘A Social Media Plague’.

‘Empty Land Doesn’t Vote’ and Other Hot Takes

New York Times (screen capture)

The hot takes about the New York Times’s detailed map of the 2016 U.S. presidential election results (see previous entry) have been coming in fast. Most of the critiques focus on the map’s failure to address population density: a sparsely populated but huge precinct appears to have more significance than a tiny district crowded by people. See, for example, Andrew Middleton’s post on Medium, Keir Clarke’s post on Maps Mania or this post on Wonkette—or, for that matter, a good chunk of cartographic Twitter for the past few days. (It’s not just Ken, is what I’m saying.)

The responses to those critiques generally do two things. They point out that the map had a specific purpose—as the Times’s Josh Katz says, “we wanted to use the 2016 results to make a tool that depicted the contours of American political geography in fine detail, letting people explore the places they care about block by block.” As he argues in the full Twitter thread, showing population density was not the point: other maps already do that. Others explore the “empty land doesn’t vote” argument: Tom MacWright thinks that’s “mostly a bogus armchair critique.” Bill Morris critiques the “acres don’t vote” thesis in more detail.

Relatedly, Wired had a piece last Thursday on the different ways to map the U.S. election results, in which Ken Field’s gallery of maps plays a leading role.

Previously: The New York Times’s Very Detailed Map of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.

The New York Times’s Very Detailed Map of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

New York Times (screen capture)

It’s 2018. The 2016 U.S. presidential election is nearly two years in the past. But that didn’t stop the New York Times from unleashing a new map of the 2016 election results earlier this week. On the surface it’s a basic choropleth map: nothing new on that front. But this map drills down a bit further: showing the results by precinct, not just by county. The accompanying article sets out what the Times is trying to accomplish: “On the neighborhood level, many of us really do live in an electoral bubble, this map shows: More than one in five voters lived in a precinct where 80 percent of the two-party vote went to Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton. But the map also reveals surprising diversity.”

Kenneth Field has some objections to the map. “So you have smaller geographical areas. Detailed, yes. Accurate, certainly. Useful? Absolutely not because of the way the map was made.” It’s a choropleth map that doesn’t account for population: “An area that has 100 voters and 90 of them voted Republican is shown as dark red and a 90% share. Exactly the same symbol would be used for an area that has 100,000 voters, 90,000 of whom voted Republican.” It gets worse when that thinly populated precinct is geographically larger. (Not only that: the map uses Web Mercator—it is built with Mapbox—so Alaska is severely exaggerated at small scales.) There are, Ken says, other maps that account for population density (not least of which his own dot density map).

The Times map has a very specific purpose, and Ken is going after it for reasons that aren’t really relevant to that purpose. The map is aimed at people looking at their own and surrounding neighbourhoods: the differences in area and population between a precinct in Wyoming and a precinct in Manhattan wouldn’t normally come up. It works at large scales, whereas Ken’s point is more about small scales: zoom out and the map becomes misleading, or at the very least just as problematic as (or no more special than) any other, less granular choropleth map that doesn’t account for population. The map isn’t meant to be small-scale, doesn’t work at small scales, but then people regularly use maps for reasons not intended by the mapmaker. The mistake, I suspect, is making a map that does not work at every scale available at every scale.

Update: See this post for more reactions to the map.

Mapping the 2018 Colombian Presidential Election, First Round

The first round of Colombia’s presidential election was held yesterday. Reddit user jesaub posted this map of the first-round results to r/MapPorn; unlike other maps I’ve seen, it drills down to the municipal level, but as a static map (and fairly low-res at that) it’s not able to show much else. For an interactive map of the results, see El Tiempo’s page, which maps by department but provides municipal-level results via search.

Mapping the Irish Referendum Results

L to R: Referendum Ireland, RTÉ News, The Irish Times.

Even an overwhelming vote margin can be interesting to map, but I’m a bit disappointed with the maps of the Irish referendum held last Friday on whether to repeal Ireland’s constitutional ban on abortion. The official Referendum Ireland website, the Irish Times and RTÉ News all use two-colour constituency map (one colour for yes, another for no); the Irish Times goes a little further and shows choropleth maps for the yes and no sides, but quartiles don’t reveal very much either. The Guardian and even Wikipedia show more granularity. [Maps Mania]

Update: Lots and lots of choropleth maps on the Irish Political Maps Twitter account.

Kenneth Field’s Dot Density Election Map Redux

As promised, Kenneth Field has uploaded the final web version of the quick-and-dirty dasymetric dot density map of the 2016 U.S. presidential election results, which he posted to Twitter last month. Unlike the quick-and-dirty version, the final version is in high resolution and can be zoomed in to quite a preposterous degree. One dot, one vote. [Kenneth Field]

U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Republican Appeal of New Pennsylvania Congressional Map

CNN: “The Supreme Court has denied a request from Pennsylvania Republicans to block new congressional maps that could tilt several key races in Democrats’ favor from being used in the midterm elections.” The new map was imposed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court after the state’s governor and legislature failed to come up with a replacement for the previous map, which the court had declared unconstitutional; see previous entry.

Meanwhile, last month Wired published a piece that looks at how experts used math and computer simulations to prove to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that the congressional map exhibited partisan bias. It’s an interesting look at some interesting methodologies.