It is becoming more common to see data displayed on GIS based maps. These maps of the 2012 Presidential Election results show us the value of maps as a lens to study data. When we are tracking indicators of wellbeing at the census tract and zip code scale, we often miss the important variations occurring within those census tracts and zip codes that can only be seen when looking at the more local scale. This is why collecting and examining community data at all scales (neighborhood, census block, zip code, census tract, county and state) is so important to understanding what is really going on in our community, exactly what the Sarasota County Community Data Collaborative is working on.
By now most of you have probably seen at least one map of the United States of America that shows our country as a conglomeration of blue and red states following the 2012 Presidential Election. Interestingly enough, data analysts and statisticians have been playing with different ways to visualize these maps in order to more accurately account for population within the states (versus the geographic area of the state, which distorts the image) and the number of votes each candidate received.
Dr. Mark Newman at the University of Michigan has contributed these visualizations to the dialog. Two of the maps are cartograms, where the states have been re-sized to account for population. Newman goes further, drilling down to the county level to show the election results by county…although even this map is misleading, because it does not account for the number of votes that the other candidate received. For that, Newman has created a map that shows red for votes cast for Mitt Romney, blue for votes cast for Barack Obama, and shades of purple for the places where the votes were split between the two candidates. Another visualization created by Chris Howard overlays the election results by county with a layer of transparency: less populous counties appear more transparent than more populous counties. From this map we can see that our country seems to be a diverse array of purple counties, where the vote was split to varying levels between both 2012 presidential candidates.
Interested in learning more about the Sarasota County Community Data Collaborative? Come to our next meeting on November 28th from 9:30-11am at Florida House (4454 Beneva Rd, Sarasota), or email Colleen McGue at firstname.lastname@example.org to join the email list and receive announcements about future meetings.