Election 2012

Transforming the Electoral Map: Beyond Red and Blue


By October of a presidential election year, partisan tribal mentality has set in, and the news cycle is dominated by the horse race between the red and blue teams. America is divvied up according to whether a simple majority in each state says they plan to vote for the Republican or Democratic presidential candidate.

Here is the conventional electoral map from the 2008 presidential election. (For an up-to-date 2012 electoral map, visit Real Clear Politics).The following maps were created by Professor Mark Newman at the University of Michigan.


The first problem with the above map is that is overemphasizes acreage over population size. Dr. Newman makes use of a cartogram which rescales each state's size according to its population.


However, coloring each resized state based on simple majorities overlooks the many Americans who reside in counties with different political views, like Austin, TX, or Orange County, CA.


Moreover, coloring each county based on simple majorities still overlooks the ideological composition within each county. The following cartogram uses shades of purple to indicate each counties' vote intensity for the Democratic or Republican presidential candidate.


Transforming the Electoral Map

Adding just several nuances to the electoral map demonstrates the United States is far from polarized. Nevertheless, these improvements of the electoral map still leave out the fact that individual Americans' beliefs are not necessarily reflected by the counties in which they reside, and also that a Democratic county in New Jersey is surely different than a Democratic county in Minnesota. But most importantly, Americans' political views are not adequately characterized by only red, blue, or purple. The Reason-Rupe poll asks a series of questions about the role of government in social and economic affairs, which reveals nearly half of Americans don't fit neatly into either conservative or liberal buckets. Instead about a quarter of Americans are fiscally conservative and socially moderate and about a fifth of Americans are socially conservative and fiscally liberal. This is also consistent with Gallup findings on political groups in America.

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  1. That is one scary-looking purple bird.

    1. Good, I wasn’t the only person who saw a bird. We either both fail or both pass the Rorschach test.

    2. This article would be way cooler if the map changes were animated. And we were stoned.

    3. I thought it was China with a wang.

  2. This will be an interesting Rorschach test.

    1. I see a net of capillaries that one would find under a slide sampled from the glomerulus.

      Does that make me weird?

      1. It makes you a doctor.

        1. Yeah, like Victor Frankenstein.

          1. Don’t laugh. A Modern Prometheus happens to be one of my favourite books.

            1. I’ve recently been toying with the idea of going back to school for a medical degree to get into research. Cancer’s been fucking with my family and friends of late. I’m afraid I won’t have the stomach to do the required slicing and dicing though. Maybe pharma research…

              1. Funny you mention that as well, db. Oncology was my initial interest and what I wanted to pursue. Then I went through surgery clerkship and was hooked right then and there and never looked back.

                You have to do the slicing and dicing though. There is no way around that one. I suggest you audit classes if possible if you are really serious about it.

                It also may be in your best interest to possibly investigate a Master’s or PhD program for that type of research, as a medical degree is not required for that type of research, but a terminal degree is.

                Have you considered pharmacy school?

                1. Pharmacy might not be a bad idea. I do like the idea of research but I understand it can be quite frustrating. As frustrating as designing project after project at our chemical plants that doesn’t get built because of the shitty economy? I don’t know.

                  1. Research gets very frustrating. Especially if you’re dealing with human volunteers/participants/subjects. They are notoriously unreliable, and you end up excluding about 85% of your data due to non-compliance with protocols. 12-week studies take 2 years to complete, because it takes that long to accumulate enough subjects who you can actually use. That’s one of the reasons I left physiology for nursing.

            2. SugarFree’d the link

              1. I meant to type it in italics. HTML TAG FAIL!

        2. Groovus Maximus|10.30.12 @ 3:01PM|#

          I see a net of capillaries that one would find under a slide sampled from the glomerulus.

          Does that make me weird?

          reply to this

          Sudden|10.30.12 @ 3:06PM|#

          It makes you a doctor.

          It means he’s trying to put his iPad on my damned network.

      2. That makes me think we need a map that represents the individual political leanings down to each cell in our bodies. My brain cells want to vote libertarian and my heart cells want to vote leftist and my testicular cells want to vote rightwing. Where’s that map?

        1. DNA.

          Apparently, libertarianism is genetic. When the trait actually expresses and at what intensity and whether or not it’s dependent on environmental controls or independent of them is subject for debate.

          1. Deoxyribonucleic acid is old news. Artificial lifeforms all the way!

        2. You would need separate ones for men and women. And they need to be weighted in terms of areas of greater importance. If Obama commercials have any validity to them, the womyn’s voting anatomical illustration would just be one giant blue vagina.

          1. I’m surprised that non-minorities even still have the vote, given their centuries of oppressing everyone else.

  3. Emily, thanks for this. I love seeing data displayed differently, especially if it increases the amount of information you can get.

    1. Agreed. Very cool.

    2. Edward Tufte agrees.

    3. What information content was increased? We already knew all this.

  4. Individually speaking, why should Bay Staters or Alabamians go to the trouble of voting for president?

    1. Revenge, hatred, malice, spite. All are valid reasons.

      1. As a Masshole, I will confirm that my ballot is going to be largely spite based.

        1. MICHAEL DUKAKIS!!!

          1. My people are little people. Little swarthy people.

    2. Individually speaking, why should I be subject to a president I didn’t vote for?

      Why can’t we all choose our own governments, or none at all?

  5. Most of my neighbors are Republicans, and a sizable minority is Democratic. But the best thing about it is that a great many of those Republicans are genuine screw-the-government types, lots having supported Paul.

    But the Democrats make up for their numerical inferiority by making lots of noise and drowning the road in bullshit.

    1. But the Democrats make up for their numerical inferiority by making lots of noise and drowning the road in bullshit.

      Don’t they always?

      1. They’re not nearly as bad as Yankee Democrats, but holy fuck, are they still catastrophically tiresome.

  6. Not quite so simplistic a view as we usually see. This is really good info, and quite heartening in some ways.

  7. p.s. Follow the link to the original, and then call up the maps one by one, they blow up very nicely if you want an even better view!

  8. Awesome post!

  9. Acid trip or Pangaea? You decide.

    1. That’s how good most art majors are these days — ask them to draw an outline of the United States, and you get a multicolored bird mid-orgasm.

      1. Considering it actually looks like either two birds fresh from the Exxon Valdez spill either stuck together or fornicating, the mid orgasm jape makes sense.

        1. Eagles sexing mid-air. AMERICA.

          1. The best creature ever.

            1. Except that it is red and blue eagles fornicating and their vile progeny is tyranny.

              1. Are you saying racial segregation is a good idea?

                I knew libertarians were like this! I bet you have posters of Jefferson Davis in your bedroom, too, eh? For a magazine called Reason

              2. I thought it was an angel riding a Pterodactyl.

                1. Or maybe it was a Bear-O-Dactyl


  10. about a fifth of Americans are socially conservative and fiscally liberal 100% statist power fellating assholes.


  11. At least the Canadian electoral map of the 1990s-2000s elections seems to be more varied. However the American electoral maps of 1912 and 1924 with the progressive green, the results might be the same.

  12. The map also ignores that many Americans views are not aligned with either the Democrat or Republican parties, but they instead feel obligated to vote for the one they “most” agree with because that’s how the system is stacked…

    1. Excellent point. I suggest adding them in green, to express the disgust they feel.

      1. While we’re at it, color DC brown to denote the purest shit the place and its political inhabitants are made of.

      2. Sadly, to partisans, we look like creeping traces of gangrenous infection they must stamp out.

  13. The maps are good, but they’re lacking a certain, what’s the phrase… texta d’alt.

  14. Is there any way we can get these maps state-by-state? It’d be interesting to see that presentation of certain states without them getting blown away by “heavier” adjacent states.

    1. Probably from the link owner. If you have success, I’d like to know also.

  15. How about tiny red hot Alaska and ice cold Hawaii?

  16. The county level map clearly shows the distinct borders of Cook County in Illinois as deep blue, even on the purple shaded map.

  17. How did Lake Michigan get so big?

  18. Most Americans (even Libertarians) have inconsistent views (and often for good, even if wrong, reason). For example; Libertarians (who tend to focus on rights) tend to line up with Democrats on abortion using the same rational of the ‘right’s of the woman’ while ignoring the ‘right’s of the child’. They also tend to line up with the ‘fortress America’ mind set while ignoring the reality of America’s role as ‘the Great Power’ after two World Wars and a global Cold War that thrust America into the role of general global peace keeper. Something every great power has done in order to preserve it’s best interests.

    Republcan’s are inconsistent between their libertarian leaning policies on fiscal matters and general government (such as education) compared to their view on personal freedom in areas like the criminalization of drugs.

    Democrat’s on the other hand are becoming the most consistent and ironically the worst to follow with their agenda becoming socialistic statist up and down. Their ‘special interest state’ policies have run their course and are now doing enough damage to divide those very same interest to soon cause eiher the destruction or transformation of that party.

    1. “They also tend to line up with the ‘fortress America’ mind set while ignoring the reality of America’s role as ‘the Great Power’ after two World Wars and a global Cold War that thrust America into the role of general global peace keeper. Something every great power has done in order to preserve it’s best interests.”

      How is this inconsistent? You can argue whether they’re right or wrong, but how is it inconsistent? And what exactly do you mean by “best interests” and how has being world police promoted that? And whose interests are we talking about?

  19. Whose idea was it to make san fran bay look like two dueling dicks?

    1. Hey man, the Universe just is.

  20. If by some thaumaturgy Gary Johnson actually won a state, what color would it be?

    1. Psychedelic, man, like one of those kaleidoscopes.

      You would actually be able to *hear* the colors, that’s how groovy it would be.

  21. There’s a term for the quarter of the population that’s fiscally conservative and socially moderate: smart people.

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