November 06, 2004

More Accurately Divided Americas

Some time ago, my friend Mark Newman and his student Michael Gastner devised a clever algorithm, based on diffusion, for distorting maps so that area is proportional to population. I think by this point everyone who is (a) paying attention and (b) not a right-wing hack realizes that the usual electoral map conveys a deeply misleading impression of a mostly-Red America, and that even the county-by-county maps are at least as misleading. What I've been wanting in the eternity four days since the election is a county-level map which is area-proportional, and where color shows how intensely the county went to either party.

Well, after some coding, and mucking about with the election returns data, here we are:

Mark has put together a page with these pictures and more about our results.

Could we please start talking about the way the country actually breaks down? Thanks.

Update, 7 Nov.: It turns out there was an error in our histogram of the county-level vote share, so I've gotten rid of that. Our maps are fine, however. Also, for some reason Mark's personal website is completely down right now, so I've redirected my links to a mirror of his page here on this site. (We'll see how long it takes for this one to be brought to its knees.)

Update, 8 Nov.: Maps slightly revised; we got more recent population figures (we were using 2000 numbers), and we fixed New England, so it has more detail now. (New England states reported votes by township, but we only had geographic information for counties, so we gave those states a uniform color reflecting their over-all division of votes. We have now properly aggregated the townships into counties, using Ray Angelo and David E. Bufford's County Location of New England Place Names. It doesn't change the result very much, but there you are.

Oh, and for the people sending me e-mail about how the cartogram is a symbol of the twisted worldview of the blood-stained left, etc.: thank you! As you know, being a trusted tentacle of the International Communist Conspiracy is a high-pressure, competitive job, and your testimonials will be very helpful to me at my next performance review. (Just between us, I'm counting on a raise, so we won't have to pay for our new dacha by economizing on cocaine.)

Update, 5 November 2008: Cartograms for 2008 are now available.

The Beloved Republic; The Continuing Crisis; Engimas of Chance

Posted at November 06, 2004 16:23 | permanent link

Three-Toed Sloth