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Rhetoretician -- Fiction etc.

Electoral Maps

Electoral Maps

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Those of you who haven't known me for four or eight years don't know of my obsession with electoral vote-counting.  I developed an electoral map in which the area of each state is the same as its electoral votes, and I color-coded it to show the current polling data from each state.  Using the altered map gives you a much clearer idea of where the hotspots and power centers are.  I e-mailed an updated map to my friends every week or two.  I thought that this year, I might do it via Live Journal.

So here's the current map, based on the "latest polls" from each state:


This map is better than the standard geographic map because it shows the amount of impact each state has, as well as its (rough) geographic location.  It actually gives you 3-4 variables in one image, which is pretty good.

The problem with "latest polls," though, is that they come from different polling organizations.  The only polling organization I really trust is Zogby, and they haven't published poll results since June 21st.  (They've got a bit stingy about sharing their info with the non-paying public in recent years.)

But at any rate, you can see the difference from, say, the way the map looked just before the 2004 election:


You'll notice that not all of the November 1st polls were borne out in the election.  Florida went Republican, for example.

My first reaction is that there are a lot more pure colors in the current map than in 2004.  It's also interesting to note that Virginia is (at least at the moment) leaning Democratic this year.  But it's early days yet -- notably we're near the end of the Democratic convention.  I don't expect realistic map data until the middle of September.
  • Thanks for this. I'm a political junkie. I'm watching Jim Lehrer cover the convention, and have been pretty much glued to my set for the past 4 nights (class aside).
    • You're very welcome. How did you find me?
      • Oh, sorry. Via Minisinoo, who recommended some of your work and mentioned you're also a college professor. There seems to be a lot of grad students and professors in fanfiction. I find it interesting; I've been browsing their journals. Thanks again for posting that. I don't say much (I'm still figuring out this whole live journal thing), but that got me excited.
  • Interesting to say the least. Everything seems to change on a dime though. Anything either candidate says intentinal or not. The should muddle up the map. That core strech of the west still is Republican though.

    Love to see the reaction to Obama speech.

    Let me leave you with these words....

    *No way, no how, no Mccain*.
    • Your history

      Kennth, Jenny Boylan here. I love following your prognostications. I am as obsessed with maps, and with politics, as you are.

      I wonder if you'd be willing to address what is truly meant as an honest question however. Given how completely wrong you were in the 2004 election, calling it for Kerry, and--unless I'm making this part up-- calling 2000 for Gore-- why exactly should we trust your maps, and your prognostication.

      I'm a hard core Democrat, and in my life the worst case scenario has ALWAYS been true, virtually every time. Even electing Clinton in 1992 (I was a delegate to the Maine Democratic Convention, for "Uncommitted") turned out to be yet another squandered opportunity, giving us 8 years of an energized right wing who were able to scratch together all the sleaze and crap they needed from materials provided right on hand by our good man.

      Today I saw that this character from Alaska is now the GOP VP. The only common sense reaction: THIS IS INSANE. And yet, pols and talking heads are now talking about how bold it is, and I just saw someone from PUMA talking like she's now going to vote for McCain because, after all, it's not so important if the VP DISAGREES WITH EVERYTHING YOUR CANDIDATE STOOD FOR, the important thing is, she has a vagina.

      Tell me again why I should trust you, why I should pay any attention to this, why I should do something other than move to Ireland for another 8 years.

      • Re: Your history

        Hi Jenny. The maps you can trust. The prognostications you shouldn't. If I could accurately predict the outcome of events like elections I would be a very wealthy man by now. So what you can trust, if trust is the issue, is that I'm doing my best to give a realistic week-by-week picture. More than that? *Shrugs*

        The gender-thing in politics, well. Palin is hardly a substitute for Hillary, is she? I mean, it took the Republicans only 24 years after Ferarro to nominate a female VP candidate. I don't know much about PUMA, but I do know that there are people who believe that every criticism ever leveled against Hillary was really about her sex, and that ultimately she lost the nomination because she was female. If you believed that, and you were angry enough...

        About a week ago, when I learned of the Biden choice, I told my wife theat if McCain were smart he'd pick a female running mate. It's the obvious thing to do, and yes, it's pretty cynical. My fear, as a Democrat, was that he'd pick a northeastern moderate, someone the Hillary supporters might get enthusiastic about -- your own senator, for example. Naturally he couldn't name Snow, because that would have been the last straw for the right wing of the Party.

        Let's see, I've already covered trusting me. (What a concept.) Why pay attention to this? Two answers: (1) it's interesting. (2) I think the outcome matters, and that it's not fixed. I think Clinton was a good choice in 1992, even though, like you, I was disappointed by much of what he eventually did. I think that a Gore presidency in 2000, which we almost had, would have been vastly different than what we got. One cannot guarantee eventual outcomes even with the "right" candidate -- what did John Lennon say, "Don't push off the responsibility onto leaders and parking meters?"

        The problem I have in elections is that most people don't vote on the issues that are important to me. They vote the economy, or they vote their fear of [pick one: Soviet Union, Al Quaida, Russia, China...]. (Or sometimes, in 2000, they vote their ire -- a lot of the votes for Nader that year were disgust at Clinton's personal behavior; Clinton wasn't running, so they took it out on Gore.) I typically vote social issues from the left, although this year I'm pretty much all about carbon; I want us to stop burning stuff.

        Ireland's a very nice place; I especially like Galway. I like British Columbia and Prince Edward Island too.
    • Hi Rachel,

      I agree. Little things change a lot. What interests me is the cracks in the solid south, for example.
  • Cartograms!!
    Did you lay yours out by hand or find some software to do it?

    (Is it wrong that I care more about that than the actual information content? Though your point about the states being more polarized this time around is an interesting one too.)
    • Hi! I created the original map by hand in Visio, which has a perimeter/area function, and updated it after the 2000 census came out. Then I just change the colors as the polls change, which is pretty easy. I have a different one that someone did in Excel (number of cells = number of electoral votes), and its advantage is that it looks a bit more like the U.S., but it's a lot more time consuming to do the color fill for that one.

      I'm fascinated by cartograms and data methodology too. Back in the days when I had an administrative job, my office wall was plastered with a few dozen colorful charts of admissions data. Someday I'd like to create something as eloquent as Minard's famous map of Napoleon's march.
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