We are now one week away from the midterm elections here in the United States. Surprisingly, we are going to be looking at election-y things over the course of the next week or so. But before we delve into that, I wanted to focus on the homepage for FiveThirtyEight, the below screenshot is from my laptop.
The reason I wanted to call attention to it is that right-most column of content. The site does a great job of succinctly providing the latest forecasts and polling number on the two main midterm results, federal representation in the House and Senate, along with polling numbers for President Trump.
Starting from the bottom, the polling numbers chart works really well. It clearly and effectively shows the latest approval/disapproval numbers and their longer term trend whilst providing a link to a page of deeper data. It’s very effective.
Moving up we have the House forecasts. These are tricker to see because so many of the more urban and suburban districts are inherently small geographically ergo very difficult to see in a small map. But the map does the job of at least providing some data along with the key takeaway of the odds of the Democrats flipping or Republicans retaining the House. Again, not surprisingly, it offers a link into the data.
The Senate map is the one where I have the most difficulty. Now when we get to the actual page—hopefully later this week—the map shown makes perfect sense because it exists in a large space. That space is needed to show two hexagons that represent each state’s two senators. But, similar to the problem with the House districts, the Northeast is so geographically cramped that it is difficult to show the senators from Maine through Maryland clearly. I wonder if some of the other visualisations on their Senate forecast page would have been a better choice. However, they do at least provide those odds at the top of the graphic.
Credit for the piece goes to the FiveThirtyEight design department.
Yo. C’mon, bro. This jawn is getting tired. Just stop already.
If you did not catch it this week, the most important news was Donald Trump disinviting the Super Bowl champions Eagles to the White House to celebrate their victory over the Patriots. He then lied about Eagles players kneeling during the US anthem—no player did during the 2017 season. He then claimed that the Eagles abandoned their fans. Yeah, good luck convincing the city of that.
So naturally we have a Friday graphic for youse.
Full disclosure: I root for the Patriots. But I mean, seriously, can’t youse guys do the math?
I’m working on a set of stories and in the course of that research I came across this article from Philly.com exploring traffic accident in Philadelphia.
The big draw for the piece is the heat map for Philadelphia. Of course at this scale the map is pretty much meaningless. Consequently you need to zoom in for any significant insights. This view is of the downtown part of the city and the western neighbourhoods.
As you can see there are obvious stretches of red. As a new resident of the city, I can tell you that you can connect the dots along a few key routes: I-76, I-676, and I-95. That and a few arterial streets.
Now while I do not love the colour palette, the form of the visualisation works. The same cannot be said for other parts of the piece. Yes, there are too many factettes. But…pie charts.
From a design standpoint, first is the layout. The legend needs to be closer to the actual chart. Two, well, we all know my dislike of pie charts, in particular those with lots of data points, which this piece has. But that gets me to point three. Note that there are so many pieces the pie chart loops round its palette and begins recycling colours. Automotives and unicycles are the same blue. Yep, unicycles. (Also bi- and tricycles, but c’mon, I just want to picture some an accident with a unicycle.)
If you are going to have so many data points in the pie chart, they should be encoded in different colours. Of course, with so many data points, it would be difficult to find so many distinguishable but also not garish colours. But when you get to that point, you might also be at the point where a pie chart is a bad form for the visualisation. If I had the time this morning I would create a quick bar chart to show how it would perform better, but I do not. Trust me, though, it would.
You know, I was trying to find a nice and funny graphic that related to the Irish for today since today is St. Patrick’s Day. But, I keep circling back to that piece I posted last year. Because, unfortunately, these are not terribly uplifting times.
We make a great big deal about how we need to enforce deportation orders and build walls to keep out Mexicans and others from Latin America. But, the Irish are a far smaller, but still significant ethnic group that tends to arrive here and stay here in an undocumented fashion.
And somehow—though on this I would love to be wrong—I think the United States would generally make a bigger deal about Peter O’Toole being deported to Donegal than Pedro Toledo to Durango.
The point is that these are all people. And the Statue of Liberty does not say: “Give us your, wealthy, high-points earned on a merit system, looks like you and me, believes like you and me, and ready to contribute to society.”. No, it says, “Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Surely that lamp wasn’t meant to flicker only a greenish glow.