The Rise of Newt

The Iowa caucuses are quickly approaching. And that means for many candidates a scramble to gain as many supporters as possible and then convert their poll ratings into votes. For the Republicans, this has been a truly topsy-turvy cycle with the distant refrain of “anyone but Mitt” echoing in the background.

So, here we are looking at the return of Newt Gingrich. Over the weekend, the New York Times published a graphic comprised of small multiples of poll numbers for the various candidates. Each chart plots the individual polls and then the moving average.

The rise of Newt Gingrich
The rise of Newt Gingrich

What one can clearly see is a moving wave of discontent. It begins small with Michelle Bachmann before rising with the arrival of Rick Perry. He floundered, however, and was soon overtaken by Herman Cain. And as his support ebbed, it buoyed Gingrich to the top or near-top, depending on the poll, of the Republican candidates.

All in all, a good series of charts that tells a convincing story rather quickly and succinctly.

The Finances of Social Security

Simple graphs can tell great stories with little annotations. This graphic by the New York Times illustrates that point well with a stacked line chart set behind a line on the same scale. The two should match, or at least the red should be beneath the greys. When they don’t, you have a story and the Times calls it out.

Social Security Revenue vs. Expenditure
Social Security Revenue vs. Expenditure

Returning to Fukushima. Someday.

Earlier this year, the earthquake and tsunami that damaged Japan also brought about failures in a nuclear plant at Fukushima. As we near the end of the year, the New York Times reports on how it might take many years for those who had to—or chose to—move away to return to a safe Fukushima.

Radioactive Contamination
Radioactive Contamination

Technology Today

Technology changes and changes rapidly. The United States led the way with cabled phone networks. Now, countries in Africa are skipping landlines and moving straight to mobile phones. The New York Times has an piece on the changes in technology and accompanies that piece with small multiples of choropleth maps that showcase different technologies and their prevalence.

Mobile Phone Subscriptions
Mobile Phone Subscriptions

What is interesting about these maps is that the Times eschewed the conventional Mercator or Robinson map projections and went with a slightly more unusual layout. But, a layout that saves some space by its contortion of the world’s oceans. Was their reason spatial or something more about maintaining consistent area? I would be curious to see the piece in print to see if it needed to fit a narrow column.

All in all, an interesting set of maps.

We Want to (Quell a) Riot (with Military Grade Hardware)

The New York Times had a piece in the Sunday paper asking whether American police have gone military, especially in the wake of the images of the police response to Occupy Oakland and Occupy Wall Street with police/troops deployed in tactical body armour, armoured vehicles, &c. The Times piece was accompanied by an Op-Art piece that took three key protests and illustrated the type of police officer responding to the unrest.

Evolution of Riot Gear
Evolution of Riot Gear

Credit for the illustration goes to Chi Birmingham. The title of this post comes from a British publication about the Brixton riot of 1981 where an individual was asked about why he was rioting was quoted as saying “We want to riot, not to work.”

The New York City Marathon

Something I’ve been meaning to put up for a little while, the New York Times’ coverage of that city’s marathon and changes in the socioeconomic composition of the neighbourhoods through which the course winds.

The piece includes a narrated motion graphic explaining the changes along a map of the course, while a series of charts look at those factors from a static perspective. The horizontal axis being the route of the course.

Brooklyn segment of the NYC Marathon
Brooklyn segment of the NYC Marathon

Credit for the piece goes to Graham Roberts, Alan McLean, Archie Tse, Lisa Waananen, Timothy Wallace, Xaquin G.V., Joe Burgess, and Joe Ward.

Income Segregation in the Philadelphia Metro Area

In an area very close to me…quite literally…the New York Times published an article about increasing segregation between the rich and the poor via the areas where they live. The study by Stanford University found that the Philadelphia metropolitan area saw the “sharpest rise” in segregation since the 1970s—the study used census data available through 2007. The accompanying graphic highlights the growth of the segregation from 1970, using small multiples of choropleths to compare 1970 to 1990 to 2007.

In 1970, much of the metro area was middle-income neighbourhoods. Certainly, the central core of Philadelphia was depressed. So too was Chester and rural southwestern Chester County. The upper-income neighbourhoods were in the close suburbs, note the townships stretching due west of the city and you see the Main Line, one of the most affluent areas of the United States, while other veins of wealth extend along other old rail lines leaving the city.

Neighbourhoods by Income in 1970
Neighbourhoods by Income in 1970

Those such as myself who are familiar with both the area and recent history should note that places like Coatesville and Downingtown are shown as middle-income. In the 1970s, areas like this and in similar places like Falls Township in Bucks County had robust steel and manufacturing sectors that employed a substantial portion of the local population.

But, compare this to 2007 and you will begin to see how many old factory towns of middle-income areas became dense pockets of depression while the city of Philadelphia itself saw a flight of wealth to the rest of the suburbs. The rural parts of Chester, Montgomery, and Bucks have seen high growth by means of new developments of upper-middle- and upper-income homes.

Hispanic Growth in the Plains

There is a scene in the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica where with the human population almost extinct, one character comments on the romances of two others by saying “they better start having babies”.

The demographics of the United States are changing. Not that they were not changing prior to recent years; Native American populations were reduced by English and Scottish settlers; the English and Scottish populations were diluted by Germans; then came the Irish and the Italians; then the Slavs; then Chinese—simplistic, but you get the idea.

Now, in the Midwest, as the New York Times reports in both an article and its supporting graphic, the long-established relative decline of the United States’ white population is being checked by a surge in Hispanic growth, especially in the rural plains states.

Hispanic Growth in the Plains
Hispanic Growth in the Plains

I am never so much a fan of the circles as sizes of population—a choropleth would have worked equally well—but it does suffice for this graphic. My larger concern is that the graphic measures growth but does not state growth between what years. Presumably, though the data is sourced from Queens College Department of Sociology, it originates in census figures. That would most likely mean growth between 2000 and 2010.

Humanity’s Not So Finest Hours

Humanity is amazing. We have great emotional power for love, sympathy, compassion, &c. We have great intellectual power; we have/are mastering mathematics and science to explore the depths of this ocean and the surfaces of planets not our own.

Yet with these great powers comes a great responsibility. And as we continue to reflect upon the milestone of reaching a population of 7 billion men and women, Bill Marsh at the New York Times, along with Micah Cohen, Matthew Ericson, and Kevin Quealy, reflected Sunday on humanity’s ability to let this responsibility slip from time to time and how at those times the human population of Earth fell.

Timeline of Humanity's Atrocities
Timeline of Humanity's Atrocities

The data comes from a book by Matthew White called “The Great Big Book of Horrible Things” that details the worst 100 cases of man killing fellow man. (Although, according to Marsh the account is humourous, though I have never read it.) At the top are no particular surprises: World War II, World War I, and Genghis Khan. The reigns of Chairman Mao, Stalin, and the Kims of North Korea. But a look further down the list, further down the timeline reveals in all its tarnished glory the history of humanity when we not quite so amazing.

Can a Republican Win the White House?

It’s Election Day. Well, not really. But, Nate Silver and the New York Times have come together to release an election simulator, if you will, focused on the chances that a Republican will win the White House.

Chances of Republican Candidates Winning the Election
Chances of Republican Candidates Winning the Election

You play with a few different variables to control the outcome: GDP growth and President Obama’s approval rating. These then are computed along with a few other things (I assume) and, like magic, you get to see your Republican pick’s changes of winning the election.

Keep in mind that these are just possible candidates, not necessarily likely candidates. John Huntsman, after all, is polling in the single digits in some of the early primary states. So while the moderate, centre-right, former ambassador to China, ex-governor of Utah looks almost unbeatable in several scenarios, I think most would agree that the Republican base will not vote for him.

But it is scenarios like that of Huntsman that are worth reminding us that perhaps the current party political system we have in the United States does not yield the best candidates for public office, nor the most broadly electable.