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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

3-D Infographic Map Shows Location, Tint of 2012 Votes


The three-dimensional map above by Princeton Professor Robert Vanderbei displays votes county by county, using purples, instead of just blues and reds. The creative display of his z-axis also provides a visual sense of how many voters turned out in the locations. As Kyle VanHemert’s article, “Infographic: A 3-D Map Of Where Votes Were Cast Most” at Fastcode design explains:

…In metropolitan areas, columns shoot up like neon skyscrapers; in flyover country, it’s typically more of a low-rise affair. But the effect is powerful: At a glance, Vanderbei’s map shows not just how the country voted, but where it voted, too.
And that means cities. The democratic lean of places like New York City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Boston shouldn’t be news to anyone, but seeing the results like this gives you a sense of just how overwhelming the number of voters really is in those densely populated urban centers.

…Vanderbei, a professor of operations research and financial engineering, made his first “Purple Area” visualization after the 2000 election. He had been reading USA Today when one of the typical “county-by-county, red-blue” graphics caught his eye. That map, he says, “made me wonder why anyone would paint a county-by-county map in such a way as to imply that a county has cast its vote for one candidate or the other. I live in a county that went about 52% republican and 48% democratic in that election. Painting the county red seemed highly misleading.”

Both GOTV and political ad strategists should find Vandebei’s map of considerable interest, since it does a good job of providing a visual sense of where you get the most bang per buck, at least in 2012. It would be even more interesting to see similar maps based on future demographic projections.
VanHemert notes the limitations of the map and continues:

…As long as we continue to operate under the Electoral College, state totals are really what matter in the end, and you’d be hard-pressed saying who won after a quick look at this map… But my biggest takeaway was that the Obama campaign’s ground game in Colorado must’ve really worked. Denver’s the country’s 23rd most populous city–smaller in population than Houston, Dallas, El Paso, and Fort Worth to the south in Texas–but its impressively tall (and solidly blue) stack represents a key source of votes in what was a hotly contested state.

Perhaps state and local Democratic party organizations can learn something useful from the Colorado and Denver Democratic organizations. The map also shows why Republicans have to invest their economic and human resources more widely to turn out their base. And if election by direct popular vote is ever enacted, you can see where most of the campaigning will take place.

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