Data Viz Done Right

December 13, 2017

Alabama's Special Election: The 13 Counties that Swung the Vote

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Unless you've been living under a rock, you know that Democrat Doug Jones defeated Republican Roy Moore in a special election in Alabama yesterday because the first Democrat to win a U.S. Senate seat in Alabama since 1992.

To help me understand where Senator Jones won, I downloaded the election results from Wikipedia (for the 2016 Presidential election) and from The New York Times (for the 2017 Special Election).

My Goals

  1. Understand the change county-by-county across the two elections
  2. Emphasize the counties that switched from Republican to Democrat

I was struggling with the wording of my dashboard, so I posted it on Convo for feedback from my colleagues. Here's what I posted:

The feedback was fast and furious, just the way I give it to them. Essentially this view wasn't terribly clear, especially the map. Ben Moss basically told me that I created a confusing (a.k.a. crap) viz and suggested using a blue color palette instead to emphasize the change towards the Democrat in each county.

Better, but this could easily mislead the reader into thinking that every county was won by the Democrat. Ravi Mistry suggested grey instead.

Nope! That doesn't work either. So back to the drawing board I went. Ben Jones and Jonni Walker were visiting The Data School today so I asked for their feedback. Ben suggested directional arrows and pointed me to his blog post for creating the arrow shapes I needed.

The next step was to take the slope graph and make it directional arrows, focusing only on those counties that switched from Republican to Democrat. From there, it made sense to split the map into two by election to give side-by-side maps and shade the counties by the party that won and the percentage of the vote.

Lastly, I cleaned up the titles and I was done. Fun exercise and I learned quite a bit about directional arrows and the Democratic stripe that goes straight through the middle of Alabama.

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