FiveThirtyEight Chat On Maps: Turning The “Big” States Blue

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

The folks at FiveThirtyEight had a fun data visualization discussion during their regular election chat this week, about whether Hillary Clinton should focus on ensuring victory next month or spending more money in “red” states to expand her Electoral College map.

Nate Silver chimes in by alluding to the classic discussion about how choropleth maps of the United States in a political context can distort a story. That’s because geographically large but sparsely populated western states skew the picture.

harry: People look to the map to understand how big the victory was. We have a winner-take-all system.

micah: Yeah, if the map everyone sees on Nov. 9 is covered in blue, doesn’t that make a difference?

clare.malone: I think it’s a reasonable goal for them to want to/try to win at least one unexpected state. A spot of blue in a sea of red can be a striking visual that people walk away with.

natesilver: So should they aim for states that are physically larger because they’re more impressive on the map?

clare.malone: Hah, yes.

natesilver: So Alaska then?

clare.malone: No.

natesilver: Or not Alaska because it gets shrunken down?

harry: Is this a Mercator problem? I don’t know maps.

Good stuff.

Of course, she could always try to win like Raegan did in 1984 — and then it won’t matter how you visualize it:


Mapping Where ‘Americans’ Live

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Policy & Politics

Back during the Republican primaries, The Upshot published an interesting short post called the Geography of Trumpism. The reporters back then analyzed hundreds of demographic variables, by county, in an effort to determine which ones might be predictive of electoral support for the eventual GOP nominee.

Think: What’s the rate of mobile home ownership? Or what percentage of people in a particular place have college degrees? They found a key variable to explore:

When the Census Bureau asks Americans about their ancestors, some respondents don’t give a standard answer like “English” or “German.” Instead, they simply answer “American.”

The places with high concentrations of these self-described Americans turn out to be the places Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has performed the strongest.

I’ve plotted the percentage of “American” ancestry, by county, on a national map. Keep in mind the data come from a five-year survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, so the accuracy in large counties is relatively safe.

But in smaller counties — say, those with fewer than 10,000 residents — the margins of error can be quite high. The results are even more problematic in the tiniest of counties. Still, this is the best public data we have, and it does produce some interesting geographic trends:


Charting American Birthdays: Yours Probably Isn’t That Special

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, Policy & Politics

Last week I published a new heatmap exploring the popularity of American birthdays. The chart, which uses darker shades to represent higher average birth counts on specific days, can give the impression that some birthdays are much more common than others.

In reality, outside of some special occasions, namely major holidays, there isn’t a huge amount of diversity in the data set, which has two decades of births aggregated by day. Most birthdays, including my own, are fairly average — especially in the first six months of the year. For example:


Is South Korea’s National Assembly More Liberal Than South Koreans?

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics, South Korea

Members of South Korea’s legislative branch, known as the National Assembly, recently took a poll to determine where they land on the ideological spectrum. The group as a whole appears to be getting more liberal, according to an analysis of the results.

The poll, conducted by the Korea JoongAng Daily and the Korean Political Science Association, gave lawmakers a 15-question ideological test. The questions focused on the Korean alliance with the United States, relations with North Korea, corporate reform, welfare and gay marriage, among other topics.

Each lawmaker scored on a scale from 0 (liberal) to 10 (conservative). According to JoongAng Daily:

Scores below 4 are considered liberals. Scores between 4 and 6 are considered moderates while scores higher than 6 are seen as conservatives.

The outcome of the poll shows an average score for the lawmakers of 3.9, 0.7 points lower, or more left-leaning, than the last joint survey conducted in the early days of the 19th National Assembly four years ago….

The outcome showed that the 20th Assembly, though 83 lawmakers weren’t polled, has moved to the left on the ideological spectrum in what some see as a response to growing calls from the public to rein in widening economic inequality.

A sample of the South Korean public also took the poll. The respondents were moderate, scoring 5 on average — more conservative than the average score for lawmakers: 3.9. The public is more liberal than the Saenuri party and more conservative than the Minjoo, the ideologically differing parties that control the assembly.

I remixed the newspaper’s graphic a bit, choosing a dot chart over a line chart. The result:


Photo credit: Wikimedia

Screenshot 2016-06-16 12.45.06

How Immigration is Animating the ‘Brexit’ Vote, in Four Charts

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, News, Policy & Politics

Immigration to the United Kingdom has risen sharply in recent years, and it’s fueling the debate about Britain’s looming “Brexit” vote on whether to leave the European Union.

Many supporters advocating a “leave” vote on June 23 believe it’s best the best way to control Britain’s borders, which under E.U. rules have been opened to workers from other member nations.

The Brussels-based union has in recent years expanded to Eastern European nations, and residents from the those countries have flooded the U.K., population 64 million, newly released data shows. That’s stoked fears that the its traditions and values are changing. Others say the influx of outside residents keeps Britain’s economy relatively strong.

The U.K.’s Office for National Statistics tracks the ebb and flow of people each year. I’ve charted the figures ahead of the vote.


Let’s Tess(t)ellate: The Electoral College in Tile Grid Maps, 1980-2012

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

I recently added some new charting tools here thanks to NPR’s excellent daily graphics rig, which we used recently to compare air quality in Seoul with other large cities.

There’s still plenty of tinkering to be done here with the rig, especially with deployment to WordPress. But as a first public test, I made several tile grid maps to show Electoral College results in presidential elections since 1980. The “maps” use a tessellated grid of hexagons, rather than actual geographic shapes, to show Republican red and Democratic blue.

Mapping Clinton, Trump Support

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

I’ve been collecting county-level data on the presidential primary race since the contests began earlier this year. With Donald Trump now the Republicans’ presumptive nominee — and Hillary Clinton rapidly heading there — here are two maps showing their support so far nationwide (inspired by The New York Timeslovely maps):



Charting the Popularity of ‘Hillary’

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, News, Policy & Politics

Despite her big win in New York, trouble looms for Hillary Clinton in the general election, according to a new poll that shows her favorable/unfavorable ratings at dangerously low levels among key demographic groups.

Clinton has seen her fair share of bad polls over the years, yet she’s found ways to rebound. The same can’t really be said about her first name, however.

Perhaps one measure of her favorability — if so, a cruel one — is the frequency with which American parents have decided to call their daughters “Hillary”. The name peaked historically the year her husband, Bill Clinton, won the White House. It then plummeted dramatically, according to Social Security card application data released by the federal government.

This chart shows the proportion of parents who picked “Hillary” since 1947, the presidential candidate’s birth year:

“Hillary” was most popular in 1992, when about 2,500 girls received the name — roughly .14 percent of those listed in the data that year. Two years later, only about 400 girls received the name, or about .02 percent. (“Hillary”, by the way, made a small but brief comeback in 2008).

The figures in both years seem low, given the size of the country. But remember that Americans get creative with their kids’ names. There were about 1.84 million girls who received Social Security cards in 1992, and their parents picked at least 15,000 different name iterations, from Aaisha to Zykeia. Ashley was most popular with about 38,000 applications (or roughly 2 percent of the listed names).

Perhaps Hillary would be slightly more popular if parents conformed (or could spell). In 1992, for example, a few hundred poor souls got these iterations of Clinton’s name: Hilliary, Hillery, Hillari, Hillarie and Hillaree. Also: Hilary.

My name — Matthew — has taken a roller coaster ride, too. It peaked in 1983, with about 50,000 boys receiving it — roughly 2.8 percent of the 1.8 million boys who received Social Security cards with that birth year. What caused the name’s rise? Perhaps I’ll never know, though my mother picked it not from the New Testament but from a John Denver song.

Thanks, Mom. (At least you spelled it correctly).

Want to see your name? Tell me in the comments.

Charting Clinton’s Sizable Lead in Votes

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

This post has been updated. See correction at the bottom of the page.

To some Bernie Sanders supporters, the Democratic presidential race must seem close. Their candidate, after all, has essentially split victories with Hillary Clinton in the more than 30 election primaries and caucuses since the process began in February — including several in a row recently.

Clinton, their thinking goes, may have a lead in pledged delegates for the nomination, but her sizable and (for now) critical lead among party leaders known as “superdelegates” could crumble if the Vermont senator continues winning.

Anything’s possible. But Clinton has already secured many, many more votes than the Vermont senator and, party rules and delegate grappling aside, is absolutely dominating the race in terms of raw support. This trend is likely to continue with large, Clinton-friendly states coming up, and it could undercut Sanders supporters’ “will of the voters” hypothesis going forward.

Clinton has won roughly 9.4 million votes, compared to Sanders’ 7 million, according to returns from U.S. states. Along the way she’s posted huge victories. Her margin in Florida alone (530,000 votes) is about the same as Sanders’ margin in his victories combined.

Here are a few quick sketches (see correction below) that help illustrate this fact. First, let’s look at their states on a scatter plot to explore not just the number of victories for each candidate but the size of their respective states — and the relative victory margins:


Here’s a similar view in the form of a bubble chart (or, Alastair Dant would say, “BALLS!”):


And, finally, two maps. Again they show the large margins — and geographic differences — evident Clinton’s victories:


UPDATE: A Twitter user suggested I look at the data with time in mind. Not sure it proves his point, but here’s another sketch:


The charts were made with Tableau Public, a useful tool for sketching with data. You can see interactive versions of the charts here: Scatter | Bubbles | Maps | Time.

(Correction: Some caucus states — Washington, Nevada, Maine and Wyoming — reported candidates’ proportional number of delegates selected to state conventions, not actual votes. The charts below now reflect margin estimates extrapolated from the total Democratic caucus participation by delegate share, like this. The charts were updated to reflect these estimates. The central idea of the post, and the overall popular vote margin difference between the candidates, remains virtually unchanged, however.)

Mapping GOP Campaign Cash by Density

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

The GOP presidential candidates collectively have raised more than $300 million in this election cycle, according to Federal Election Commission data. Here’s a quick look at where the several of those candidates — Jeb Bush, Ben Carson, Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump — collected the money.

Each dot on the maps (see update below) below represents at least $5,000 raised by zip code. The dots in each place are assigned randomly within the zip code boundaries, creating a density map (think Verizon vs. AT&T) for campaign donations* through Feb. 29.

Here’s a (crowded) map with all the candidates. The dots were layered alphabetically, a method that unfortunately obscures some candidates at this scale, depending on the geography. Still regional differences are evident:



The former Florida governor raised large amounts of money, of course, from his home state, but also — as the perceived frontrunner for a time — from major population centers:



Carson raised a ton of money for someone who received relatively little love once voters started casting their ballots. His map shows he raised more from small locations throughout the country, not just the major population centers:



The New Jersey governor, understandably, raised a large proportion of his money from his home region:



The Texas senator raised money from all over the country, but he clearly has a financial base in Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio and Houston — the major population centers in his home state.



Like Christie, the Ohio governor tapped his donor base at home:



The Florida senator’s map looks much like that of his frenemy, Bush:



The billionaire business man, who has relied largely on personal funds for his campaign, has raised very little money in checks larger than $200, as reflected in his map:


* To keep the analysis consistent for all campaigns, the maps were created with a data set that excluded individual donations of less than $200. The data include only donations to the candidates’ campaign committees, not other political committees supporting them.

UPDATE (9:20 p.m. EST): Based on David’s suggestion in the comments, I’ve changed the dot color in the individual maps so it’s consistent. You can see the originals here: Bush | Carson | Christie | Cruz | Kasich | Rubio | Trump.