tessellate-1980-2012

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.

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.

Mapping Consistently Partisan Counties

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

When it comes to recent presidential elections, geography — at least in some stubborn places — is destiny.

Voters in more than 1,600 American counties — a little more than half of those* in the United States — have consistently selected the same political party in each presidential election since George H.W. Bush faced off against Michael Dukakis. Chances are many of them will do so again this election cycle, too.

This first map shows each of the counties. They represent a wide swath of American geography — large and small, densely and sparsely populated, rural and urban. The colors show the familiar red/blue categorization of Republicans and Democrats, with darker shades representing a higher respective vote share on average.

seven_counties

About 1,330 of the counties have voted each cycle for the Republican nominee. They are generally less populous, with some exceptions, and clustered across the country in large patches that are obviously familiar to the GOP:

seven_counties_rep

The Democrats have far fewer consistently partisan counties — around 315 — but theirs are somewhat more populous and urban, and they have higher concentrations of minority voters. Again, that’s comfortable turf for Democrats:

seven_counties_dem

Given the differences between the two parties’ counties, plotting them on a map isn’t necessarily the best way to view this data. That’s because the larger, less-populous red counties in the West tend to disproportionally shade the national picture. Conversely, the blue counties tend to be smaller and more densely populated and therefore don’t get fair shake visually.

Another way to look at the data is with a tree map. In the examples below, counties are proportionally drawn in squares and rectangles and clustered by state. Both are then sized based on their respective average vote totals over the seven elections. The colors and sizes at the county level reflect the political party its voters favor — and the average votes per cycle for that party. The result is a clearer picture of each party’s pool of support.

Here’s a version with both parties (see a larger, interactive version here). Notice that the blue area for Democrats is a bit more representative than on the geographic map:

treemap_both

Here’s the Democratic map, which includes many fewer (but more populous) counties and plenty of votes:

treemap_d

The Republicans have a few populous counties, too, but many of them are tiny, as represented on this map:

treemap_r

Again, check out the larger interactive version to filter the maps, see partisan vote averages by county, and even toggle between individual state maps.

Though counties are generally a useless level of geography for presidential elections, it’s still fun to look at which areas inside states are consistently shaping partisan destiny.

* Counties in Alaska and Hawaii not included because Alaska has wacky county problems across elections. Also because of laziness.

The Nation’s Most Consistently Partisan Counties In Presidential Elections

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

When it comes to recent presidential elections, geography — at least in some stubborn places — is destiny.

Voters in more than 1,600 American counties — a little more than half of those* in the United States — have consistently selected the same political party in each presidential election since George H.W. Bush faced off against Michael Dukakis. Chances are many of them will do so again this election cycle, too.

This first map shows each of the counties. They represent a wide swath of American geography — large and small, densely and sparsely populated, rural and urban. The colors show the familiar red/blue categorization of Republicans and Democrats, with darker shades representing a higher respective vote share on average.

seven_counties

About 1,330 of the counties have voted each cycle for the Republican nominee. They are generally less populous, with some exceptions, and clustered across the country in large patches that are obviously familiar to the GOP:

seven_counties_rep

The Democrats have far fewer consistently partisan counties — around 315 — but theirs are somewhat more populous and urban, and they have higher concentrations of minority voters. Again, that’s comfortable turf for Democrats:

seven_counties_dem

Given the differences between the two parties’ counties, plotting them on a map isn’t necessarily the best way to view this data. That’s because the larger, less-populous red counties in the West tend to disproportionally shade the national picture. Conversely, the blue counties tend to be smaller and more densely populated and therefore don’t get fair shake visually.

Another way to look at the data is with a tree map. In the examples below, counties are proportionally drawn in squares and rectangles and clustered by state. Both are then sized based on their respective average vote totals over the seven elections. The colors and sizes at the county level reflect the political party its voters favor — and the average votes per cycle for that party. The result is a clearer picture of each party’s pool of support.

Here’s a version with both parties (see a larger, interactive version here). Notice that the blue area for Democrats is a bit more representative than on the geographic map:

treemap_both

Here’s the Democratic map, which includes many fewer (but more populous) counties and plenty of votes:

treemap_d

The Republicans have a few populous counties, too, but many of them are tiny, as represented on this map:

treemap_r

Again, check out the larger interactive version to filter the maps, see partisan vote averages by county, and even toggle between individual state maps.

Though counties are generally a useless level of geography for presidential elections, it’s still fun to look at which areas inside states are consistently shaping partisan destiny.

* Counties in Alaska and Hawaii not included because Alaska has wacky county problems across elections. Also because of laziness.

Mapping ‘Majority Minority’ Presidential Results

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

Yesterday I mapped the more than 350 “majority minority” counties in the United States, breaking them down by race and ethnicity groups and geography. As promised, today I’ve looked at how these counties (in the contiguous United States) voted in the 2012 election.

Obama won about 70 percent of these counties. Here’s the map:

The Daily Viz

The Daily Viz

That map, of course, can be misleading — as often happens in elections. That because the area of the counties can distort their actual voting power. In this case, Obama won more “majority minority” counties with urban populations and many more voters, such as Los Angeles (Calif.), Cook (Ill.) and Kings (N.Y.) counties, among others. Romney carried rural Republican counties, largely in Texas and the west.

Obama received nearly 18 million votes in the “majority minority” counties he carried. Romney got 2 million votes in his “majority minority” counties. In the end, Obama received a net 10 million votes from “minority majority” counties — nearly double his national margin over Romney in the country as a whole.

The map below uses proportional circles on top of the choropleth map above to help visualize the total votes in each county. You can see how Obama won in many of the most-populous counties, increasing his national margin (though not necessarily helping with the Electoral College — except in critical purple states he carried, such as Florida and Virginia).

The Daily Viz

The Daily Viz

You can download the data here.

For more updates, follow me on Twitter.

Mapping Obama’s Election Performance By County In 2012 Vs. 2008

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

The Washington Post over the weekend published an interesting story about President Obama’s southern support in the election:

The nation’s first black president finished more strongly in the region than any other Democratic nominee in three decades, underscoring a fresh challenge for Republicans who rely on Southern whites as their base of national support.

This map compares Obama’s performance in 2008 to this year’s election in the lower 48 states. Darker blue shades represent higher percentage point increases, and darker red shades represent decreases in percentage points. It’s clear he performed better this time in parts of the Deep South:

The Daily Viz

But why? One likely explanation for Obama’s stronger showing in the parts of the South could be that those counties have a high proportion of black voters, and Obama turned them out. According to the Post, “black voters came out in droves on Election Day and voted overwhelmingly for Obama — near or above 95 percent in most parts of the South.” Here’s a map of the black population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. See a correlation?

U.S. Census Bureau

Notice too that Obama did worse in Coal Country than he did four years ago, perhaps because the region has higher unemployment rates than the national average, or because the Romney campaign wooed voters in this region, especially in Virginia. Here’s a map of coal production, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. This is less clear, in part because the map shows all coal-producing counties, not just those in which it’s a key part of the economy now (the red and pink areas in West Virginia, Kentucky and Virginia):

USGS

And, finally, it’s no surprise that Romney did better than McCain in 2008 in Utah. Romney, of course, is a Mormon and he led the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. But if you want to compare it with the election results, here’s a map of the Mormon population, again from the U.S. Census Bureau:

U.S. Census Bureau

I’m generally not a huge fan of county-by-county election maps because counties as a unit of geography are largely meaningless in national elections. But in this case maybe it’s useful. Meanwhile, check out the Post’s nice map gallery of the 2012 electorate.

Obama Approval Rating Charts Updated

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

A few months ago I posted a dashboard of 21 interactive charts comparing President Obama’s approval rating among different groups (men vs. women, Democrats vs. Republicans, rich vs. poor, etc.). I’ve updated the charts with the most recent Gallup data:

See the charts, and download the data.