Monday, August 27, 2012

The Problems with Election Maps

With the presidential election on a few months away, maps of the potential outcomes have already started appearing.  Electoral college aside, the flaw with these maps is obvious--no state is all for one candidate or the other. Just looking at one map, makes me think popular vote!

CNN's map and calculator will even let you see what happens if all states went Democratic or Republican: What the use in an all red or blue map?  Even worse, is Amazon's 'heat map' of whether people are purchasing 'red' or 'blue' blooks, indicated by a percent greater than 50%.  Essentially the entire U.S. is symbolized in red. No map is preferable to a bad map.

On the other hand, The New York Times, does a better job: using a cartogram to symbolize the number of electoral votes per state.  Then population and its associated number of votes is the focus rather than the number and size of states, which can be deceiving.   In fact, as some posts suggest, the potential outcome, and margin of victory, may be better conveyed in a graph looking back historically.  Sadly, many consumers probably don't look at the NY Times map or find it difficult to understand.  Wikipedia also tackles the issue of map interpretation and the electoral college.

Lastly, the Huffington Post goes a bit further by including a handy historical table with its basic map--that way people can see which states are traditionally red, blue, or teetering on the edge.  Finally, it is important to mention that other maps, such as turnout rates, would also be helpful but are rarely seen or talked about in the news and media.
Source: New York Times, Click to bring up a larger version

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