Election year mapping and data visualizations

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently posted an article about the University of Richmond’s Voting America project, which features interactive animation and commentary dealing with US political data from 1840-2008.

While both an interesting tool for personal or reference use, Voting America’s interactive features mostly rely on nicely prepared video presentations of the data. Several other interactive data visualization tools and websites also provide new ways to make thinking about politics, history and the election season at least a bit more interesting and compelling.

For example, how about the visualization below, posted on the data visualization blog Eager Eyes, called “The Traveling Presidential Candidate Map” (much more detail and larger format PDFs available on the Eager Eyes site). This illustrates the shortest routes a candidate would need to travel to reach every zipcode.

Want more interactive elements? Here’s an example of a treemap from IBM’s Many Eyes visualization site:

What does this tell us? You’d be better off looking at the original, interactive graphic that trying to understand this picture…but in a nutshell, it illustrates and compares the links of both Obama’s and McCain’s YouTube videos. Sites like Many Eyes, and to a similar degree, Swivel, can be used rather easily to crunch datasets into visualizations in a short amount of time.

How about something simpler, but just as interesting? What about a ‘Wordle‘ visualization of Michelle Obama’s speech from the Democratic National Convention? (HINT: click the visualization below – you can interact with it right within this blog post).

Speaking of Many Eyes, the team behind the visualization tools and website wrote an interesting blog post back in 2007 called Democratizing VIsualization, which – while focused on new mapping visualizations, really sums up many of these new approaches:

“…the election maps got progressively more sophisticated as people tried to understand voting results. They also illustrated the fact that there are multiple ways of telling the same story. The maps became an essential part of a national debate on politics, a divided country, and what it means to represent complex data.”