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 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):

primary_results_dems_clintonSM

primary_results_dems_trumpSM

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:

scatter

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

bubbles

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

maps

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:

time

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.)

Sanders Strongest in Educated Areas

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

Last week we examined how the Democratic presidential campaigns have performed in the context of Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election.

That analysis grouped Obama’s vote share into categories, highlighting how the country’s reddest and bluest counties have voted for Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders so far in the Democratic primaries. Clinton, the clear frontrunner, performed best in areas where Obama was strongest against Mitt Romney. But Sanders did slightly better when majority black counties weren’t factored.

Here’s a look at the Democratic race (through the most-recent contests) in the context of voters’ educational attainment. Each candidate’s average vote share by county is grouped by the proportion of residents in those areas with at least a bachelor’s degree. Sanders doesn’t win among any group, but he generally performs best in places where voters have more education:

dems_edu

Comparing Clinton, Sanders Vote Share with Obama 2012

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

Among the fascinating aspects of American politics are the various factors — demographic, financial, historical, etc. — that shape the geography of campaigns.

This election cycle is no different, with presidential candidates in both parties winning a seemingly random mix of specific counties and overall states since the primary season began in Iowa on Feb. 1.

On the Democratic side, one question has nagged me this week: How have Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders performed in the context of President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign?

Inspired by a recent FiveThirtyEight story about the Republicans, I compared the Democratic candidates’ vote share in more than 2,050 counties thus far with how Obama did in those places four years ago.

Clinton has won about two thirds of the counties contested by the Democrats thus far that Obama carried in 2012. She has won about 5.8 million votes in those places, compared to roughly 4 million for Sanders.

But is Clinton’s support stronger in places where Obama was stronger? As a data exercise, I looked at Obama’s vote share by county and county equivalents and then grouped the locations based on his strength. (In some places contested by Clinton and Sanders, of course, Obama got clobbered by Romney. In others, he won by huge margins). I then calculated how Clinton and Sanders did respectively in each.

This first chart shows the results. It’s clear that Clinton does better in places that were the most Democratic in 2012. The more “blue” the county for Obama, the higher her vote share, on average:

clinton-sanders-obama-all

That’s interesting, but not unexpected, given that Clinton is the frontrunner and what we know about her dominance in places with high proportions of black voters.

See FiveThirtyEight’s take on Sanders’ five-state winning streak in caucuses this week:

Sanders’s strength in caucuses may also be, in part, coincidental. Every state that has held or will hold a Democratic caucus this year has a black population at or below 10 percent of the state’s total population, and black voters have been among Clinton’s strongest demographic groups. Without those black voters, Clinton just can’t match the enthusiasm of Sanders’s backers. (In Southern states, where Clinton romped, her voters were far more enthusiastic than Sanders’s supporters were.)

So I ran the numbers again, but this time removing the 93 counties where blacks are the majority, mostly in the Deep South. The picture is a bit different, showing how Sanders competes more strongly when the black vote is less of a factor:

clinton-sanders-obama-noblack

(View interactive versions of the charts — and the data tables — here).

Sanders, of course, doesn’t get the pick the voters’ demographics.

Tomorrow we’ll look at how Clinton and Sanders performed when counties are grouped by their residents’ educational attainment. Hint: Sanders does better in places where a higher proportion of people 25 or older have at least a bachelor’s degree.

Clinton Dominates ‘Majority Minority’ Counties

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

Hillary Clinton’s efforts to win over minority voters have paid off significantly in the Democratic primaries. Many of these voters simply aren’t feeling the Bern, according to voting results and demographics data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Since January, Clinton and her main rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, have faced off in 26 states, pulling about 15 million votes from 1,900 counties and county equivalents. (Votes in two states, Kansas and Minnesota, were calculated at the congressional district level).

Roughly 250 of the counties contested in the Democratic race are majority minority, meaning non-Hispanic whites there represent less than half the population. The majority in those places is as follows: Blacks (91 counties), Hispanics (64 counties) and Native Americans/Alaska natives (1 county). Another 93 counties have no ethnic or racial majority, making them quite diverse compared to much of America.

Clinton won all but seven of these majority minority counties.

To understand this phenomenon, it’s useful to take a look at her vote share on a map (inspired by The New York Times’ lovely interactive version here). She’s dominated the Deep South and Texas, places with high proportions of black and Hispanic voters, respectively:

primary_results_dems_clinton

Sanders’ map also clearly shows Clinton’s strength, except for a few places (remember Kansas and Minnesota’s maps would look different had votes been counted at the county level) outside the South and in New England, his home turf:

primary_results_dems_sanders

Here’s a map showing all 249 majority minority counties in the Democratic race thus far on top of Clinton’s vote share. As I mentioned, Sanders only won seven of them (and only one with a population greater than 10,000):

primary_results_dems_clinton_mm

Clinton’s dominance is particularly evident among black voters specifically. Of all the counties in the race, not just those that are majority minority, about 380 have at least a 25-percent black population. Clinton, somehow, won them all, edging Sanders by 1.5 million votes:

primary_results_dems_clinton_black

Of course, none of this is a surprise. Black voters in overwhelmingly side with the Democrats, and Clinton is the Democratic front runner. But it’s interesting, I suppose, that Sanders hasn’t done better.

Thoughts?