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 ‘Majority Minority’ Counties

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics

This week the U.S. Census Bureau released updated national population estimates, including a list of the counties that grew most rapidly from 2010 to last summer. I wrote about these counties in a political context this week for work.

Included in the release was a note that six more counties had flipped to “majority minority,” as the bureau calls them. These are counties in which non-Hispanic whites represent less than half the population.

With those six, the country now has at least 352 counties — about one in 10 of the total — in this category. Here they are on a map:

The Daily Viz

The Daily Viz

These counties exist largely because because of the relative size of the Hispanic and black populations (though Hawaii and Alaska have high Asian population rates), depending on geography. Western counties have higher percentages of Hispanic residents, and counties in the Deep South have higher rates of black residents. Of course there are some exceptions sprinkled throughout the country.

This map shows the rate of “minority” residents by county:

The Daily Viz

The Daily Viz

This map shows the percentage of Hispanic residents by county:

The Daily Viz

The Daily Viz

This map shows the percentage of black residents by county:

The Daily Viz

The Daily Viz

You can download the data here. Tomorrow we’ll examine how these counties voted in the 2012 presidential election.

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