Visualizing Historical Political Party Identification in the Era of Trump

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

As many have noted, President Trump has shown a remarkable ability to maintain a strong base of support — about 40% of the voters — despite the myriad controversies swirling around him.

Some clues about that base can be seen in the results of a fascinating survey taken recently by Pew Research Center to gauge Americans’ reaction to the Mueller investigation.

Deep in the white paper released by Pew are historical numbers listing the percentages of Americans who either support one of the two major parties or consider themselves independents, many of whom admit leaning left or right . These data probably aren’t news to people who follow politics more closely than I do, but the broad trends they illustrate were interesting to me — especially when analyzed visually.

First, the data show how support for these groups has changed over time. The reds in the normalized stacked bar chart below represent people who identify with Republicans, or lean towards them, and people who identify with Democrats, or lean toward them. The middle represents a smaller group that supports some other party or doesn’t have strong opinions. I’m calling them “rest”. These are the folks, I suppose, who help decide elections — if they vote.

Neither of the two major parties have maintained a majority of support, but the Democrats were there briefly during the election of Barack Omama and have come closer than the Republicans during the Trump era. You can see bursts of support for the GOP after former President Bill Clinton’s election, when the Republicans took back the U.S. House of Representatives, and in the years following the September 11 terror attacks.

This line chart plots the same groups from a different perspective, perhaps making it easier to see the changes to core party support and the broader strength with some independents leaning their way. You can see the positive swings for Democrats during the early days of the Clinton and Obama eras, and also how GOP support fell during the George W. Bush presidency.

Identification with the presidential party during Clinton, Bush and Obama either dropped or remained flat after they took office. Under Trump, however, the people who identify as Republican (and their learners) have rallied to their embattled president.

This small illustration helps explain the president’s resilient approval numbers. I’ll leave it to others to explain why those supporters remain.

You can download the data from Pew Research Center here.

Charting the Korean War’s Missing Troops

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

I wrote recently about the effort to get North Korea to return some of the remains of United States troops who are still unaccounted for since the Korean War.

More than 7,000 troops — almost all presumed dead — never came home after the conflict, which ended with an armistice in 1953. There’s new hope that recent diplomacy between the United States and North Korea might allow some of those remains to come home.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, whose mission is to find these troops from several past conflicts and identify them, posts data on those from the Korean War.

My friend Bob Rudis graciously helped me free the data from its original PDF format (though the agency later released a spreadsheet in response to my requests). BTW: Bob did an excellent job documenting his process for cleaning the data and creating a chart.

I had to give some visualizations a try, too.

More than 30,000 United States troops died in the war, a brutal conflict dramatically changed by the involvement of Chinese forces after an initially strong advance into the North by the Americans early in the fighting.

Many of those who never came home were pilots, like one I profiled recently, or ground troops engaged in tough fighting at places like the Chosin Reservoir.

Here’s the timeline for when these “unaccounted for” troops were lost over the course of the war (the winter 1950 spikes represent the Chinese counterattack and the Chosin Reservoir battle):

Here are the days of the week in which those losses occurred. This could be random chance, but some 300 troops were reported lost on Dec. 2, 1950, as especially fierce fighting with the Chinese erupted during a battle around Yudam-ni. It was a Thursday:

Most of those lost were, of course, from the U.S. Army, which endured heavy casualties. The soldiers’ fates were made more perilous by the freezing weather conditions:

The most populous states, as you’d expect, lost the most troops. Those still missing came from all over the United States, though, and this map shows the rate of loss per 10,000 population (as of 1950). States such Alaska, Nevada and some in the Northeast and Mid Atlantic experienced a disproportionate loss.

You can get the data here and, again, check out Bob Rudis’ own documentation showing how the data were converted from PDF and visualized using R.

China’s Imbalanced Trade with the United States, in Four Charts

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance, Policy & Politics

A trade war could be looming between the United States and China, fueled by President Trump’s fixation on the two nations’ unbalanced import-export relationship.

The trade imbalance between the two countries — which might not hurt the United States that much — stems from the fact that China sells more to us than it buys, essentially.

That’s largely driven by macroeconomic factors, not some malicious intent: China is a low-cost manufacturing powerhouse, and the United States is an economy dominated by domestic consumption.

These charts help explain the $570 billion overall trade relationship between world’s largest economies.

First, here’s how the trade has changed over time. The United States imported $460 billion in goods from China last year. That figure has steadily increased in recent decades as China emerged as Asia’s top manufacturer. Exports from the United States to China, which doesn’t yet have the same per-capita domestic consumption as America, haven’t kept pace (again, not that we should be worried).

Here’s the same data, told with a column chart. It shows trade between the two countries in proportion. About 20% of our trade with China last year, and over recent years, has been from exports. Imports represent about 80% of our goods exchanges, on the other hand.

The resulting balance of trade, or trade deficit in this case, has also grown steadily over the years. These charts show the change, year by year, since 1998. Red bars represent the growing trade deficit in billions of dollars by month.

This measure — the trade balance — varies widely by country. One way to examine the relationship with other countries is to look at the balance in the context of the respective total trade. How much does the balance represent as a percentage of overall transactions, for example?

These charts show that figure for America’s top-40 trading partners in 2008. Blue bars reflect a positive trade balance for the United States. Red bars mean it suffered a trade deficit with a particular country in a given year.

When examined this way, you can see that China isn’t the only country in the world to sell more to Americans than it buys. China’s deficit might be huge — its population and output is quite large — but the trade deficit looks similar to other countries figures when viewed proportionally.

Promo background image courtesy Keith Roper.

How China’s Economic Retaliation Hurt the South Korean Tourism Industry

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance, Social Media

I wrote this week about the one-year anniversary of China’s economic retaliation against South Korea over the THAAD missile system, a defensive weapon designed to stop North Korea’s medium-range missiles.

China objects to it and has been flexing its economic muscle in protest, carrying out an aggressive campaign of economic retaliation that includes sending fewer tourists. In 2017, just over 4 million Chinese visited South Korea, down from roughly 8 million a year earlier after several years of steady growth.

These charts show the effect on the South Korean tourism industry, which has grown to depend heavily on China. This first example helps show China’s increasing share among all tourists who visit South Korea. In 2016, for example, nearly half of all visitors were Chinese — way up from a decade ago:

This chart reflects the annual total visitors by Chinese since 2000. Until last year, annual growth had average nearly 30%, even with the 2015 MERS outbreak in South Korea, which caused hundreds of thousands — likely millions — of Chinese to stay away. You can see how the figure dropped dramatically in 2017:

And, finally, we look at the monthly data, which spikes during peak summer months. The effect of MERS is again evident, as is the significant drop in tourists after the Chinese implemented travel restrictions last March:

It’s Been a Hot Summer, Down Under

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Weather

My family is vacationing this week in Mosman, Australia, a harbourside Sydney suburb near Balmoral Beach known for its family friendly attractions and boutique shops.

This place is a great holiday spot. There’s only one problem this year, though: It’s been quite hot.

Sydney is normally relatively temperate during the summers, which occur opposite winters in the Northern Hemisphere. The average temperature in Celsius this time of year usually runs in the 25-degree range, or around 80 Fahrenheit. Today, though, was 35 degrees, or roughly 95 Fahrenheit.

Have I mentioned that our vacation home doesn’t have air conditioning?

We’ll somehow survive, but the heat did prompt me to scrape some weather data.

During the last month Sydney has experienced severe heat spikes, some of them eclipsing records and even fueling wildfires. Last January, typically the hottest month here, there was a similar pattern.

This chart shows the year in temperatures. The color bars show the range of each day’s highs and lows. The black step lines show historical averages. And the gray line shows the record highs.

America Imports Lots of Stuff from China, Including Christmas Decorations

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Economy & Finance

Last year, the United States imported more than $460 billion in goods — clothes, toys, gadgets, you name it — from China. Of course, our Christmas decorations were on that list, too.

Some $2.2 billion in fake trees, miniature lights and assorted ornaments came from the Middle Kingdom last year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s detailed trade database.

The Christmas trade in ornaments is big business. It skyrocketed in the mid-1990s (like all products from China) and dipped during the recession (like all products from China).

Here’s a simple chart:

Merry Christmas. 圣诞节快乐.

Charting NICAR Attendance, Over the Years

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Uncategorized

Next week is the Investigative Reporters and Editors annual CAR convention — the gathering of news nerds from across the world to discuss the latest and greatest in data journalism. This year NICAR, as its known among the nerds, is in Jacksonville, Fla.

After attending each year since 2006, I had to skip the convention in 2015 and 2016 because I now live in Seoul. But I’m making the long journey to Florida this year, and I wanted to know how many people would be there.

The fine folks at IRE graciously shared historical attendance data with me:

(I’ll be using this data, by the way, for our demonstration session on NPR’s dailygrapics rig — the visualization tool I use for this blog).

Seoul’s Steamy Summer (Updated)

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: South Korea, Weather

Note: I followed my wife, a foreign correspondent for NPR News, to Seoul last year. This is one of a series of posts exploring our adopted country’s demographics, politics and other nerdy data stuff. Let me know if you have ideas for future posts.

I’ve been away from Seoul for much of the summer, but now that I’m back it’s impossible not to hear all the complaining — among expats and locals alike — about the heat.

They have a point, at least in terms of their expectations. This summer has indeed been hotter than usual, especially this month, when the daily low temperature on one recent day actually exceeded the average high. (I updated the chart on Aug. 24).

Historically, the air begins cooling slightly in August. Not so this year…

Charting New York City’s Changing Borough Population, Over Time

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics

I woke one recent morning at 5 a.m. obsessing about, of all things, the people of New York City — specifically how the population is distributed among the five boroughs: Brooklyn, Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. And how that’s changed over time.

I had a general idea. But my nerd brain needed to know for sure. So I went to Wikipedia for data. These charts show the total population, by borough, since 1790.

This chart shows how the proportion of New York City residents in each borough has shifted over time. Decades ago, Manhattan was the center of population. Not anymore, of course:

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

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Demographics, 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.