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July 11, 2016

Makeover Monday: What Lawmakers Spoke About After the Orlando Mass Shooting


This week’s Makeover Monday is a bit of a dark topic that gives us a glimmer into the how politicians in the US respond to a tragedy. Yes, this is a single mass shooting, but they occur nearly every day in America and the responses from politicians are now all too standard. The Orlando mass shooting likely got more attention because it happened at a LGBT club. This and other tragedies beg the question: When will America get its act together?

The chart that we’re reviewing this week is by the grapics team at The Washington Post.

What works well?

  • It’s neatly organised in a 3x3 grid.
  • The semi-circles are all sized relative to each other.
  • It’s very easy to understand.
  • They used colors that are automatically associated with the two political parties
  • Everything is clearly labeled.
  • It’s not over-cluttered.

What could be improved?

  • The chart implies that there are equal representatives in both parties. However, Republicans have 247 seats while Democrats have 187.
  • Using semi-circles makes the shapes hard to compare.
  • It's difficult to compare across the topics.
  • There should be an easier way to which party talks more about each topic

Given these changes I would like to see, I’ve create this version that shows how many representatives talked about each topic in a tornado chart format. I then included a circle with a number inside to show which party talked about the topic more and by how many representatives. Lastly, I added lots of summary details in the tooltips.


  1. I really like this but am confused by a couple things:

    1) why are the circles placed where they are? They seem like they are in the right place relative to one another and their values, but how did you decide where in their respective bars they should go.

    2) It's a little confusing having the pop-up text come up on the grey sections of the bars. Is that done for a reason?

    1. 1) The bar represent the disparity between the parties. I couldn't come up with a better way to do it on the time I allocated myself.
      2) The tooltip is the same for each place you click on for each category. That was an intentional choice.

  2. Does the Washington Post make their data available publicly for download? How did you get the data set to recreate the visualization? I am not able to find a link or information on how to do this on their site. I appreciate any insight you can provide!

    1. I manually recreated it. It's only 18 records.