Wednesday, November 7, 2012

How Obama Won the Election

Map showing the results of the U.S. Presidential Election 2012
Became more: Democratic (blue); Republican (red).  From The New York Times:
How Obama Won Reelection

 For those of you who, like me, tried very hard to stay awake long enough to see which candidate was projected by CNN as the winner of the US Presidential race last night, it was finally called at 11:18 PM, but of course, there are some states (FLORIDA!!! AGAIN!!! They need to get their act together!) that are sill up for grabs.  Nevertheless, Obama received the necessary 270 electoral college votes, and then some, early enough to call by the professional prognosticators, even without the dithering of Florida’s critical 29 electoral votes. 

Here are some interesting maps of the election results.  I was struck by how red the country could be, whether looking at the state-by-state view, or especially by the county-by-county view, but still come up with a “blue” result overall.  This has to do, obviously with the variable distribution of population, giving more weight to population centers (e.g., cities and populous suburban areas) and less so to rural and relatively unpopulated areas.  This points out the fallacy of coloring in maps with nominal data, when the size of the geographic unit has little to do with its real impact for the variable in question (in this case, electoral votes).  Still, it is striking how divided the nation is, whether it is on geographic lines, racial/ethnic lines, economic lines, gender lines, or a generational divide.

State and County maps of election results, For full size interactive maps, see:

This explains where Obama’s support came from.  He got even less of the white vote than he had in the 2008 election, and kept about the same percentage of women voters (55%), but had major gains in the youth vote in key battleground states (although losing some of the youth vote in other states), and perhaps most significantly, had overwhelming support from the Latino/a voters.    
“President Obama won the Hispanic vote by 44 percentage points, 8 percentage points more than in 2008. Among the swing states, the president made the biggest gains in Colorado, taking 74 percent of the Hispanic vote, up from 61 percent in 2008. In Florida, President Obama’s gains among Hispanic voters helped him take the state. He won 60 percent of the Hispanic vote, up from 57 percent in 2008 and 44 percent for John Kerry in 2004.”

How Obama Won Reelection

Also, see the Washington Post website for a nice series of maps on the "Margin of Victory" at the state and county level, and state-by-state analysis of the election. This one shows how strong or weak the vote was for Obama or Romney.  The county one is especially interesting, because the parts of the country that are red are VERY red, almost the entire middle of the country and the deep south. Check out the County Margin map, it's a proportional symbol map showing the margin of victory in thousands of votes.  Very nice!

OK, here's another one, (Thanks Steve Duncan!) for sending some great cartograms of the election, the one above showing the relative importance of the states vis-a-vis electoral votes, but this website has a nice animation of election advertisement spending in the various swing states. Really informative!   See

Here's another interesting one (sent in by Aviva Rahmani.  Thanks Aviva!) showing the considerable spatial correspondence between areas of slavery/non-slavery in 1859,  racial segregation areas in 1950,  and red/blue voting states in 2012.  It's not a perfect match-up, and there are some interesting differences (e.g., Virginia, Indiana, New Mexico, Florida) , but wow, remarkably similar.

What The 2012 Election Would Have Looked Like Without Universal Suffrage
These five maps look at how the 2012 election would have played out before everyone could vote.  [Some of the reader's comments about the maps mention the flaws in the argument presented by these maps, but keep in mind as you look at them that they are supposed to reflect what TODAY’S United States would have looked like in the 2012 election if only certain of our citizens were allowed to vote.  Obviously, in 1850, not all the states were states, etc.  Also, I believe in the early US, not only was the right to vote restricted to white men, it was further restricted to white male property owner (no poor guys need apply).  So there are some grains for salt here to be taken in interpreting these maps, but all in all a sobering look at how differently elections can turn out when the right to vote for major constituents of our population is disallowed or suppressed.] 
Map 1: 1850
Before 1870, only white men could vote. Here's how the election would have looked before the 15th Amendment.

“President Barack Obama has been elected twice by a coalition that reflects the diversity of America. Republicans have struggled to win with ever-higher percentages of the shrinking share of the population that is white men — "a Mad Men party in a Modern Family world," in the words of one strategist.
But at America's founding, only white men could vote, and the franchise has only slowly expanded to include people of color, women, and — during the Vietnam War — people under 21. These maps show how American politics would have looked in that undemocratic past.” From:
See the website for the rest of the maps on what the election would have looked like without the black vote, the youth vote, and women’s vote.  

Also check out the collection of pre-Election Maps 2012 at


  1. The common presumption is that if all racists & misogynist where removed from the white voting populace, the Republicans would never have a chance, so the GOP must tolerate them.

    The problem with those presumptions is the 1850's and 1950's are long dead; carpet bagging republicans did a good job of diluting the dixiecrats

  2. if only, the truly were "long dead." Come on down to the state of Mississippi and you'll find that somehow all those people from the 1850's, 1950's and 1960's are quite alive and well. their presence is smaller, but they are still here trying to keep the status quo AND they are quite vocal.

  3. These are very thought provoking images and arguments regarding the effercts of voting mechanics with the actual election results in the U.S. I was particularly struck with the map for "What The 2012 Election Would Have Looked Like Without Universal Suffrage". It's difficult to imagine a free America without universal suffrage, and yet this was the case just a few decades ago. It just goes to show how important it is to remember where our roots took off and contemplate on how we would not repeat our mistakes in the past. Christian Pearson @