Data + Design Project

A Campaign Map, Morphed By Money

Tuesday 11.06.2012 , Posted by
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Every 4 years, as Americans rush to the polls and cast their vote for a new president, we’re familiar with seeing the typical U.S. maps of red and blue denoting how states are favoring each candidate. But what information does this really give us? With the electoral college having only a portion of electors allotted to each state (based on that states population) the actual voting power of a state has little to do with its geographical size. How can we look at this differently and get a more informed look at what’s going on?

Let’s take a look at a morphing map created by NPR which shows how these electoral votes can be visualized, and even more importantly, how we can look at electoral spending to see which states really determine who will be in the White House next.

In the first example below, we have the normal election map (in this case from the 2008 election between Barack Obama and John McCain). Republican voting Alaskans appear to have much more power than Democratic leaning people from Massachusetts, simply because of state size. But this visual is highly misleading about each states voting power.

In the second example (below) we see NPR’s morphed map, with each state expanded or shrunk based on the size of their electoral college votes. In this case we see Alaska drastically shrunken, because it only has 3 electoral votes. Massachusetts, on the other hand, has seriously ballooned with its 12 votes.

What we also see in this map is very important for who wins the election: the states are now displayed in varying shades of red to blue, many appearing purple. This distinction marks the number of votes which went to either Republican or Democratic parties, and clearly displays battleground states as the most purple. While Alaska and Massachusetts are on the far ends of this spectrum, clearly settled on who they will elect, other states like Ohio and Florida haven’t quite made up their minds where their votes will go. If you were on the campaign trail, where would you spend your money? That brings us to the next map.

Here NPR’s map continues to morph, becoming almost unrecognizable as a map of the U.S. We are now looking at the U.S. map warped by the ad spending of the democratic and republican parties. We can see they’ve clearly spent most of their money in the purple states – spending an amazing $38.9 million in Florida alone.

The final question remains: how does this spending figure for each voter in the state? The map below shows this, with Nevada winning hands down for nearly $6 of ad spending per voting aged citizen. What this map clearly shows is, if you want your vote to really decide who becomes president… move to a battleground state and especially Nevada.

There you have it: below is the new map of the United States, according to NPR.

Check out their great video below, based on the imagery in this article.

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Benjamin Starr

Written by Benjamin Starr



Known in some circles as the most amazing man in the universe, he once saved an entire family of muskrats from a sinking, fire engulfed steamboat while recovering from two broken arms relating to a botched no-chute wingsuit landing in North Korea. When not impressing people with his humbling humility, he can be found freelance writing, finding shiny objects on the internet, enjoying the company of much-appreciated friends and living out his nomadic nature. He is Managing Editor of Visual News. Follow his movements on Twitter:

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