Tag Archives: poll

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Map App of the Day: Presidential Election Maps

It’s just two days until the U.S. Presidential election.  I thought I’d talk a bit about how elections are covered with information graphics, specifically maps.

To get things started, CNN has has a map of early voting participation numbers.  For some states, they even have participation by party and by county.  This particular map is disappointing – no real effort is made to illustrate the information, all the real data is just text in callout boxes.  It might even be more efficient just to put the data in a big table like this page at George Mason University.


Real Clear Politics’ mapping application is interesting because it gives you to ability to run your own scenarios, switching swing states back and forth to see the result. You can also compare results from previous elections, all the way back to 1968.


But geographic projections don’t tell the whole story –  Political Irony has a great map demonstrating exactly why the Electoral College is a terribly undemocratic way to choose a president – voters in some states have effectively four times the influence of voters in others:

I’m not the first person to notice this of course, so there have been many efforts to show cartograms based on electoral pull.  There’s one at the Dispassionate Liberal and one at American Street, both using data from Pollster.com.

I like the analysis at FiveThirtyEight.com a little better, so I’ll show the latest cartogram from Frontloading HQ:

This map tries to keep the states in the right shapes, if they’re a bit disconnected.  Taking a cue from Michael Gastner, Cosma Shalizi, and Mark Newman at the University of Michigan, here’s a cartogram using the current data from FiveThirtyEight:

fivethrityeight election polling cartogram

A couple of notes – Blue is safe for Obama, Red is safe for McCain.  I compressed “leans” and “likely” categories into one color because it’s late and my eyes are tired.  Also, I’m missing Alaska and Hawaii, I’ll try to find a base map that has them and update.

By the way, here’s another page with interesting maps of 2004 election results analyzed in a number of interesting ways.

I’m still on the lookout for the best map to watch election results as they come in on Tuesday – any suggestions?

Baby Name Significance (and other gratuitous statistics puns)

Twisted tree branches

Now that we have more than 10,000 votes in our baby name poll I can start doing some basic statistical analysis.  One of the things I’d like to do is figure out which names are popular in our poll, but still relatively unique compared to all those other babies being named out there.

Before I get to that, though, I want to make sure that our vote totals are significantly different from random.

Heads up:  What follows is a basic intro to some concepts in statistics that I’m writing mainly to keep myself sharp.  I haven’t done much research recently and I don’t want to get rusty.  Feel free to read along, at the end I’ll show you how to detect the influence of Australians.

Since the data for names included in the poll is completely different from the write-in votes, we’ll concentrate on the pre-selected names for now.

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Why Geeks Support Barack Obama

ObamaI just donated $25 to Barack Obama. Much like many other geeks before me. Obama is clearly the choice of the country’s programmers, researchers, and other eggheads. Why?

Despite the explosion of baby name voting posts, I usually write about more technical topics on this blog. I’m very interested in the intersection of technology and society, and use of the internet in social interaction. So I think it’s fair to talk about that other vote that’s going on right now, the 2008 U.S. Presidential election.

As I said before, Obama is clearly the choice of the geek constituency. Don’t believe me? Here’s a graph of individual campaign contributions by employees at five large, notoriously geeky tech companies, Google, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Amazon:

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