October 17, 2008

The best election maps of the season

Filed under: Uncategorized — ubikcan @ 2:00 pm

While there are plenty of election maps out there, I thought it would be useful to present the ones that I think are the best of the bunch. To qualify for this little exercise, each map has to do something more than be just be another choropleth map.

One of the first I started following during the 2004 election, and still a classic is electoral-vote.com:

Current call: Obama 352, McCain 171

Features: mouse-over for latest poll data

Updated daily state by state

“This day in 2004” feature, which shows neither of the 2004 candidates above 270 to win.

However, it’s still a boring choropleth map. Let’s try Mydd.com.

Much better! A cartogram sized to number of EVs. Features include mouse-over, updated daily, and ability to switch out states and play scenarios.

Current call: Obama 364, McCain 174.

The best one for seeing trends is pollster.com. Here I’ve captured an example for Florida. In the corner is a reduced version of the main map, which you can use to access each state.

Features of the main map include mouse-over, click-through to trends, daily updates.

Current call: Obama 313, McCain 155, tossup 70.

Let’s look at some other sites. Real clear Politics is a well-known one:

*Yawn* Oh dear! Not that interesting and cartographically-challenged too (indistinguishable colors, using black for tossup states). No mouse-over but you can click states to play with scenarios (kind of an obsession with this site).

This has the apparent lowest total for Obama (286-158) but you can switch this map to one without tossup states, which results (in their view) with Obama 364, McCain 174.

A unique feature is that they offer outcomes for elections going all the way back to 1968. This allows us to compare Electoral-Vote.com’s “on this day” feature with the actual outcome:

So the left map is on this day (Oct 17, 2004) and the right is the actual outcome. You can see that Kerry faded badly after getting a boost in the third debate. Swiftboated?

OK, what about the New York Times? Sorry another choropleth, but it does allow you to do a fair bit of comparison when you click on a state. This map and commentary is by Adam Nagourney, or “Adnags” as he is known. Here we are looking at Florida again.

So overall choropleth maps are clearly preferred, given that we are mapping electoral votes by state. The cleanest of these in my opinion is Pollster.com. Cartograms, which came to prominence after the 2004 election seem to have been forgotten, except for the great Mydd map. Unfortunately choropleth maps sized by geographic area can be very misleading. If Pollster and the Mydd maps could be combined it would be a sure winner. As it is, none of these are entirely satisfactory.

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