16.06.2014

Data visualization: influencing the next political election

During the last US presidential election, data visualizations of election results were everywhere. But beyond the appealing sight of an interactive map of the US covered in red and blue, data visualization can generate great impact in the understanding of the political programs and the outcome of the election.

DATA VISUALIZATION: THE NEXT POLITICAL TOOL ?

Data visualization is becoming commonly used by political parties to convince undecided voters. For example during the 2012 US presidential election, the Democratic Party used this very appealing Road to Recovery video to demonstrate the undeniable progress Obama policy had made in reducing the number of job losses. Although the numbers in the video are correct, one has to choose data from carefully ascertained sources.

This is why very useful charts such as the Wall Street Journal election 2012 poll tracker allow us to compare sources of information and gain crucial highlights on the reliability of the predictions. As news agencies are often politically affiliated (Fox news being pro-Republican while MSNBC being oriented towards the Democrats), the choice of the polls and interpretation of the numbers is of paramount importance when we want to understand the reasons underlying particular voting trends.

BETTER DATA, BETTER UNDERSTANDING

The WSJ also provides a map-based visualization of the county-by-county results of the election, and focus on giving us the external data to understand the results. We can focus on counties where the presence of minorities or Mormons is strong, where immigration greatly influence demographics or we can focus on industrial metropolis. When zooming on a specific county, we can have access to unemployment numbers, per capita income or voting age population. We can also see which countries have the biggest margins or have increased turnout since 2008. This serves as a reminder that percentage and numbers of “blue” and “red” voters do not suffice.

The Huffington Post has a different approach, letting us know what legislative actions will influenced the demographics and profiles of voters (called “Voter Suppression”). For example in Florida, a stunning 23 percent of African Americans, the highest figure in the nation, cannot vote due to laws on felon disenfranchisement. Data visualizations can thus go from being essential representations that enlighten the voters to political tools to persuade them. It must not be a surprise if at the end, such visualizations include calls to action

Data visualization gives you the ability to focus

 

WHAT ABOUT THE 2014 FRENCH MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS ?

Find the detailed analysis of the results here (designed and built by Toucan Toco).
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