Anyone Can Find a Statistic to Support Them, But Does the Same Logic Apply to Maps?

President Obama doesn’t like the term “Red State” or “Blue State.” Instead, people like him ask us to consider the “purple states.” Of course, this is all just political rhetoric, but he may really be onto something. The polarization of the terms “red and blue states” arguably emanated and is most often found on the cable news networks. Coincidentally, that’s probably where the average person’s news consciousness is (no one buys papers, and it’s easier to attach a face to a story with TV).

What am I talking about? Take a look at this map, provided by a University of Michigan study.

It’s the 2008 Electoral Map. This is what you’re used to when looking at maps of elections, at least in the most simplified way.

Now take a look at this:

What’s going on here? The author/creator of this map scaled the size of the states to be proportional to their number of electoral votes. That changes the way you look at it, huh?

Here’s where I’m going with this: you can pick and choose maps to support your point of view the same way you can pull statistics to back up yourself. Omitting information isn’t always lying or deception, or is it? (that’s another monster entirely; please note my internet sarcasm)

It’s easy to look at the first map, like many of us do, and think the Democrats are a bi-coastal party that will never have the in-between-states. When you look at the second map, that changes quite a bit. It is probably a more accurate representation of how Obama was able to win in 2008, despite seeing so much red in the middle.

Maps like the New York Times compiled after the 2008 election try to take the best of all worlds, providing 4 different views and ways to read the map. It’s good, but it still doesn’t do a justice to the actual implications a county of 32 people in Wyoming has on the election. That county is still bright red, and has a large surface area.


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