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 GOP’s Congressional Exodus

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

Another Republican in the U.S. House — Speaker Paul Ryan, no less — announced his intention not to seek re-election in 2018, adding to the number of members leaving ahead of what’s expected to be an unfavorable mid-term environment for the party.

Even before Ryan’s announcement, HuffPost reported that the number of GOP congressmen leaving the chamber, either for retirement or other offices, has hit numbers not seen in decades. His exit is likely to increase that number soon.

This chart shows how the GOP members’ announcements over this cycle have cumulative outpaced their Democratic counterparts:

And here’s a breakdown of retirements, by party, over the years:

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:

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?

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.

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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.

What Car Brands Tell Us About Our Political Participation

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

Interesting

When it comes to cars, the results are often predictable. It probably won’t surprise anyone to learn that the data, as collected by Scarborough Research, show that drivers of hybrid automobiles tend to skew Democrat and are highly likely to vote. Subaru owners, as well. Saab and Volvo owners also lean left and vote in large percentages, though not by as wide a margin.

How ‘State of the Union’ Speeches Changed Over Time

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

Tonight President Obama gives his third “State of the Union” speech, an address that dates back to George Washington. Over time, the length and format of the speech has changed, according to the The American Presidency Project

Bubbles in this view are sized the represent the number of speeches given by each president, with colors representing format (purple = oral; green = written).

This shows the total number of words used during each president’s tenure in both formats. Teddy Roosevelt needed 174,000 to deliver his thoughts, leading all presidents. 

A better view is to look at the average number of words used, given that presidents have had varying term lengths over time. Jimmy Carter led all presidents, with an average of 33,000 words, though that’s skewed by one long written address as he left office.

Bill Clinton had the longest average oral speeches since 1966, at 1 hour and 14 minutes. Richard Nixon gave the shortest speeches, averaging about 35 minutes. 

View interactive version | Download data