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.

Candidate Fundraising vs. Super PAC Spending in January

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Uncategorized

From Huffington Post

Reports about January’s fundraising numbers, released on February 20, have focused on two narratives: Mitt Romney’s limited fundraising and high burn rate and the role that super PACs are playing in an increasingly contested Republican primary. HuffPost decided to combine those narratives together to make a graphic of candidate and super PAC fundraising and spending in January.

Mapping the Birthplaces of U.S. Presidents

By Matt Stiles | | Topics: Policy & Politics

Since I get the day off, I figured I should repay our presidents by honoring their birthplaces with two maps made with Google Fusion Tables. This first map places points on their home towns (see larger interactive version): 

Here’s the same data but aggregated by state and mapped with polygons. Darker shades represent more presidents (see larger interactive version): 

Data source: Wikipedia

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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