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19 November 2004 @ 08:16 pm
Fun with cartography  
Just about everybody's seen the maps with "red states" and "blue states" (showing which voted for Bush and which for Kerry). And I bet most have seen the "purple states" map (showing proportions of Bush votes to Kerry votes) and the red and blue counties map.

The problem with all of those maps is that most people's initial impression is based on the proportions of red and blue areas, but territory has almost no correlation to either population size or number of electors—see How To Lie With Statistics for more on how that sort of thing is frequently abused. So the huge areas of red or reddish-purple are very misleading (as are the areas of blue dominance), which the Bush administration is already using to claim that he has a broad mandate. It's more accurate, more instructive, and just plain more interesting to look at voting maps with areas adjusted for population or number of electors. These cartograms paint a less arbitrary picture of the current American political reality.

Getting off the subject of politics, but sticking with the theme of maps, here are a couple of links that might give your geographical sense a kick in the seat of the pants. The Peters Projection Map shows the true surface area of land masses, unlike the more familiar Mercator projection, and the results can be a little surprising, especially to Americans. And the land of Oz gets its day in the sun in these "upside-down" maps.
 
 
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Vorn the Unspeakableunspeakablevorn on November 20th, 2004 07:10 am (UTC)
You know I'm writing a civ game.

What you may not know is that one of the features I want is a rather complete set of map projections to be available, including Peters (equal area square map), Buckminster-Fuller (unfolded icosahedron), and the forever perplexing Mecca Map (the direction from any point on the map to Mecca will be the actual direction to Mecca. This map, except for cases where "Mecca" is on the equator, will always overlap itself.)

Actually I don't often see Mercator maps; the one I have on my wall is a National Geographic World Map, which uses Winkel Tripel projection (kinda like the Robinson, actually an average of two different maps, the cylindrical equidistant and the Aitoff - which is just kinda strange.)

Vorn
gwallagwalla on November 20th, 2004 10:25 pm (UTC)
Interesting. Like, Civ as in Sid Meier's or Civ as in Advanced Civilization? Or something else?
dacut on November 20th, 2004 03:39 pm (UTC)
Ah, I love maps. Thanks for the links.
Wog of Westminstergrassynoel on November 20th, 2004 05:29 pm (UTC)
This business about the red and blue areas is self-evident once you study the electoral system in place in the USA for presidential elections. That is a system which amounts to giving votes to acreages rather than people. It's somewhat like vote-weighting in our state elections, where rural seats have fewer voters than city ones.
gwalla: magmagwalla on November 20th, 2004 08:39 pm (UTC)
Except in reverse. And not exactly.

Each state gets electors equal to the number of congresspeople it has (representatives + senators). Each state gets a number of representatives proportional to its population, and two senators. So less populous states have a disproportionate amount of power, but not to a huge degree.
Wog of Westminstergrassynoel on November 22nd, 2004 02:33 pm (UTC)
But it does explain why you can become president with a minority of the popular vote. People who complain when this happens just don't understand the USA's system.
Wog of Westminstergrassynoel on November 20th, 2004 05:32 pm (UTC)
Our world maps nearly always show Australia in the middle (left-to-right), Europe and Africa on the left and the Americas on the right.