Saturday, November 8, 2008

Purple Electoral Maps for 2004 and 2008

This is the first of a few simple looks I'll be taking at electoral data. This map of the contiguous 48 states shows returns by county or parish, not by state, and is shaded anywhere from red through purple to blue depending on how Republican (red) or Democratic (blue) the county voted. If you want to see the animation just click on the image to see it by itself.

(Credit for source maps to Mark Newman).

The New York Times has a very nifty gadget that doesn't have quite the fine gradations of purple these maps have but lets you play with it a little more.


- Maybe the most interesting: the Black Belt typically votes solid Democratic, and in both elections, the central region (along with the southern Mississippi River) does indeed. That's not a surprise. What's more comment-worthy is how the areas around it, and in particular just north of it, are more solidly red in 2008 than in 2004, against a general headwind of blue-ification. This can be made even clearer on the New York Times gadget, which is where I captured this image from:

Looking at this map, you're immediately tempted to speculate that voters in these states were affected by Obama's race. I think an even more likely reason is that these voters were looking for an evangelical, and Sarah Palin won them over.

- Most counties in the Western US (west of the Rockies) got a shade bluer, even in the big-landowner ranch states of Montana and Wyoming.

- The upper Midwest (MN, WI, MI, IA, OH, IN, IL) got much bluer - especially the western half of this region.

- Upper New England got bluer, especially Vermont.

- There's a small patch in northern/northeastern North Carolina that was solid blue in 2004 (which is Research Triangle, then spreading out into a rural agricultural area). The red around it filled in substantially in 2008. Turns out all those tech jobs NC's good universities are bringing in are good at creating wealth, but not so good for fundamentalists at the polls.

- More just out of demographic curiosity - I don't know much about the Midwest, and I'm wondering what's the difference between Iowa and Nebraska that makes Iowa more Democratic. Yes, Obama got Oprah to open for him in Des Moines, but the more Democratic character of Iowa predates that. Some trends are easy to understand; the blue counties in central South Dakota are almost always reservations. But Sioux County, Iowa is an outlier at 81.1% for McCain; why so conservative? I'm curious because I've always questioned why the Upper Midwest (Minnesota) is more liberal and the Lower Midwest (Oklahoma) more conservative.

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