Today is Tuesday, 12 March. And that means a special election in the 18th congressional district of Pennsylvania, located in the far southwest of the state, near Pittsburgh.
Long story short, the district is uber Republican. But, the long-time Republican congressman, the avowedly pro-life type, was caught urging his mistress to abort their unborn child. Needless to say, that did not go over so well and so he resigned and now here we are with a veteran state legislator and veteran who calls himself “Trump before there was Trump” running for the Republicans and another veteran but also former federal prosecutor involved with fighting the opioid epidemic running for the Democrats.
Now about that uber Republican-ness. It is so much so that Democrats didn’t even run candidates in 2014 and 2016. And then in 2016, Trump won the district by 20 percentage points. But the polls show the Republican, Rick Saccone, with a very narrow lead within the margin of error. That in and of itself is tremendous news for Democrats in Pennsylvania. But what if Conor Lamb, the Democrat, were to actually somehow pull off a victory?
The piece has several nice graphics showing just how much this area of the state will change and how that will impact these two candidates. But my favourite piece was actually this dot plot.
It speaks more to today’s election than the future of the district. Everyone will undoubtedly be looking to see if Lamb can eke out a victory of Saccone this evening. But even if he loses narrowly, the Democrats can still take a glimmer of hope because of just how insurmountable the challenge was. It would require an enormous swing just to crack 50.1%.
Credit for the piece goes to Reuben Fischer-Baum and Kevin Uhrmacher.
Yesterday the Pennsylvania Supreme Court published the new congressional district map of Pennsylvania, thelatestchapter in this tale. Republicans in the state legislature have already said they will take this to the federal courts, but they tried that just a few weeks ago and the Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
So the Washington Post put together a map showing precinct-level data aggregated to the new borders and the result is a far more competitive map. Despite there being more Democrats in Pennsylvania, overall the map still remains leaning towards Republican, but there are more light blue and red, again meaning competitive, districts to be fought over.
I did hear on the radio this morning, however, that one implication will be in the new Pennsylvania 4th, which is comprised mainly of the Philadelphia suburban county of Montgomery. Right now, that area is so gerrymandered that there is not a candidate right now living with the new borders.
Credit for the piece goes to the Washington Post Wonkblog.
So last week the House of Representatives published a highly controversial memo by Representative Devin Nunes. Why controversial? Because it is apparently missing dozens of pages of additional facts, data, and context. But what the memo does contain are connections between people and things. And this Friday piece from the Washington Post does a good job of trying to explain those connections.
Credit for the piece goes to Darla Cameron, Julie Vitkovskaya, Reuben Fischer-Baum, Ann Gerhart, and Kevin Uhrmacher.
Apologies for the lack of posts over the last week or so, I have alternately been on holiday or sick while spending other time on my annual Christmas card. This will also be the last post for 2017 as I am on holiday until the new year. But before I go, I want to take a look at the election night graphics for the Alabama US Senate special election yesterday.
I am going to start with the New York Times, which was where I went first last night after returning from work. What was really nice was there graphic on their homepage. It provided a snapshot fo the results before I even got to the results page.
The results page then had the standard map and table, but also this little dashboard element.
We all know how I feel about dashboard things. To put it tersely: not a fan. But what I did enjoy about the experience was its progression. The bars below filled in as the night progressed, and the range in the vote-ometers narrowed. But that same sort of design could be applied to other graphics representing the narrowing of likely outcomes.
The second site I visited was the Washington Post. Like the Times, their homepage also featured an interactive graphic, another choropleth map.
There are two key differences between the maps. The Times map uses four bins for each party whereas the Post simplifies the page to two: leading and won. The second difference is the placement of the map. The Post’s map is a cropping of a larger national map versus the Times that uses a sole map of the state.
For a small homepage graphic, bits of both work rather well. The Times cuts away the unnecessary map controls and neighbouring states. But the space is small and maybe not the best for an eight-binned choropleth. In the smaller space, the Post’s simplified leading/won tells the story more effectively. But on a larger space that is dedicated to the results/story, the more granular results are far more insightful.
On a quick side note, the Post’s page included some context in addition to the standard results graphics. This map of the Black Belt and how it correlates to regions of Democratic votes in 2016 provides an additional bit of background as to how the votes played out.
Credit for the piece goes to the design teams of the New York Times and the Washington Post.
Over the weekend, the American and North Korean leaders got into an argument with the North Korean leader calling President Trump old and the American leader calling Kim Jong Un short and fat. High class diplomacy.
So what holds the North Korean army, by numbers likely not quality one of the largest armed forces in the world, back from sweeping down the Korean coastlines and overrunning Seoul? Well, that would be the role of the Demilitarised Zone, or DMZ. And thankfully yesterday, whilst your humble author was out sick, the Washington Post published a piece looking at the DMZ.
The piece uses a giant, illustrated in the background to provide context to the words and imagery sitting in the foreground. (That is how I justified covering it in the blog: map.) Overall the experience was smooth and informative about the sheer amount of destructive power waiting just miles north of Seoul.
Credit for the piece goes to Armand Emamdjomeh, Laris Karklis, and Tim Meko.
This has been a busy week. I am working on a small piece on the Red Sox managers in the free agency period—I thought it would be ready yesterday, but not so much—but news continues to happen outside of the baseball world. Some of the biggest, at least in the US, would have to be the speech by Senator Flake of Arizona who announced he would not seek re-election in 2018.
So cue the politically-themed graphics. Today’s piece comes from the Washington Post. The graphic itself is not terribly complex as it is a scatter plot comparing the liberal/conservativeness of senators with how their respective state voted in 2016.
But what the piece does really well is weave a narrative through the chart. Scrolling down the page locks the graphic in place while the text changes to provide new context. And then different dots are highlighted or called out.
It proves that not all the best graphics need to be terribly complex.
Credit for the piece goes to Kevin Schaul and Kevin Uhrmacher.
Last month, two massive earthquakes devastated Mexico. Now, if you were like me, you were captivated by the photos and videos of the quakes striking and tearing down buildings and infrastructure. But, think about it for a second, how did people know to take out their mobiles and record the tremors for posterity’s sake?
Well, the first thing you should know is that earthquakes consist of a number of different waves of energy. Some move quicker and are less damaging than the slower travelling ones. And it turns out that scientists have been able to use that speed differential to build early warning systems along and around fault lines.
The Washington Post did a really nice job of explaining how earthquake-prone California is developing just such a system to deal with its tremors. I won’t spoil all the details, you should go read the article if earthquakes are of any interest to you.
A wee bit of housekeeping here at the top. Your author will be away for work and then enjoying a well-earned, but all-too-brief holiday over the next week.
At the end of the week, the Senate’s window to pass a budget reconciliation measure, i.e. what they need to do to repeal Obamacare with only 51 votes, will close for a year. As of my writing on Monday evening, Susan Collins has just become the third Republican no vote, effectively dooming the bill should it come to the floor for the vote.
But as the week progresses, I fully expect the bill’s authors to add some bells and whistles to try and sweeten the deal. But the problem has always been, the bells for the hardline conservatives push moderates away and the whistles for those same moderates drive away the same hardline conservatives. For the next year and a half or so, the best bet to pass a fix to healthcare is a bipartisan “repair Obamacare” instead of “repeal Obamacare”. Whether or not the Senate will have the stomach for such a compromise is yet to be seen.
In the meantime, this week we have a tracker from the Washington Post examining the latest positions of senators on the Cassidy-Graham bill.
It does a nice job of breaking up the Republican conference not just along the ideological spectrum, but also on the winners and losers spectrum. After all, the bill as written will transfer large sums of aid from states that accepted the expansion of Medicare to those states that rejected expansion.
Credit for the piece goes to Kim Soffen, Amber Phillips, and Kevin Schaul.
Colin Kaepernick is a contentious figure in American football because of the protests he started against the US national anthem. While other protesting players remain on teams and play, Kaepernick remains unsigned despite what some say is a talent above other players. And as the American football season just began, this article from the Washington Post caught my attention.
Some of the arguments I have seen for Kaepernick’s unsigned status allege he just is not very good. But is that so? What does the data show? Well thankfully the Post dived into that and is running what we can best call a Kaepernick tracker comparing him to qualified quarterbacks in the NFL.
It turns out, he is a middle-of-the-pack quarterback, demonstrably better than half-a-dozen and sitting solidly amongst an almost third-tier or cluster of players. The data clearly shows that poor performance is not the reason for remaining unsigned, otherwise he would have replaced any number of quarterbacks. True, it could come down to his dollar cost, but most likely his remaining unsigned, compared to almost a dozen players underperforming him, is related to his protests.
Now from the design standpoint, I also wanted to call attention to this article because of the way it handles definitions. The article uses the statistic adjusted net yards per attempt to assess performance. But what does that actually mean? Well, in the digital margins of the piece, the designers include an explanation of that statistic. I thought this was a really well-done part of the article, not interrupting the main narrative flow for a definition that a portion of the audience probably knows. But the more casual followers or people more interested in the political nature of the story would have no idea, and this does a great job of explaining it to us laymen.
Credit for the piece goes to Reuben Fischer-Baum, Neil Greenberg, and Mike Hume.
Like many Americans I followed the story of Hurricane Irma over the weekend. One of my favourite pieces of reporting was this article from the Washington Post. It did a really nice job of visually comparing Irma to some recent and more historic storms, such as 1992’s Hurricane Andrew.
It can be difficult to truly compare hurricanes, sometimes they are small and compact, other times more dispersed. Irma was just big with lots of potentially destructive power spread out across a wide area, almost the width of the Floridian peninsula. The article uses several graphics—I am also quite partial to the satellite image comparison so check out the article—but this one is perhaps my favourite.
It uses a colour palette that deepens in redness nearer the storm’s centre. This allows the user to compare the geographic area or footprint of the storms destructive winds.
I wonder, however, what would happen if the designers had superimposed each graphic atop the other. It might have allowed for an even better comparison of size instead of having to have the user mentally transpose each hurricane.
Still, a really nice graphic and visual article.
Credit for the piece goes to Bonnie Berkowitz, Laris Karklis, Reuben Fischer-Baum, and Chiqui Esteban.