Someone Needs More Crayons

The graphic artists at The New York Times, CNN, and pretty much every other outlet providing maps of the election results need to be provided with more than a pair of red and blue crayons. Maybe they should use pastels instead; they blend better.

This map, for example, allows interesting comparisons with past elections — consider the differences in party affiliation between 2008 and 1992 — but would benefit by a version showing the results as blended shades of red or blue representing the proportion of the electorate which voted one way or the other. (It would also help if the shades were offset by additional colors for the minor parties, but that would require that they exist as anything other than statistical noise.) There is a map showing the margin of victory, which is somewhat approximate to what I want and shows the results as shades of blue or red. But I’m interested in the relative density of the electorate, in both parties, on a county-by-county basis, and think that’s best represented by mixing primary colors.

Luckily, Mark Newman, of the University of Michigan, drew such a map.

Whereas the typical map makes the country seem somewhat bi-polar, the use of purple indicates instead that it’s not so much bi-polar as unevenly distributed. Here’s the same map, but adjusted for population density.

The 1992 election is a somewhat arbitrary cut-off for comparisons, but provides more perspective than the 2000 election does. This map, from Robert J. Vanderbei of Princeton, shows the distribution from 1962 to 2004.

His map for 2008 is entirely purple.