It’s hard to believe now, but the red state/blue state maps only became a standard image in American politics in 2000, when it seemed to illustrate very vividly the sharp divides in the country, on politics, culture, even consumer habits. Many people, however, used the same data in more granular form to show that the story was more nuanced than that, both in 2000 and 2004. (UPDATED: And a new one for 2008.)
Now, in 2008, we have this great graphic from the New York Times, using data to tell a story, rather than simply provide a snapshot, of how the country has changed since 2004.
Compare this graphic, showing the counties in which Obama won more votes than Kerry (and the counties in which McCain won more votes than Bush), to the simpler red-blue map of the electoral votes won by each candidate.
If we were able to look even closer, we would be able to see how different issues and concerns may have influenced the decision to vote Democratic from county to county.
Who would be interested in that kind of data? Not just Democrats wanting to gloat, but also Republicans wanting to analyze where their party is and should go, policymakers trying to understand people’s concerns, community organizers trying to galvanize people, even private individuals wanting to understand their community and their country a little bit better.
Now that the election is over, we can really start thinking about what happens next, for our country and our world. More data, not just for data’s sake, but for more understanding.