Vol 43 (2012)

The Florida Geographer


2012 Presidential Election: Florida Cartogram

“2012 Presidential Election: Florida Cartogram”

The Presidential Election dominated the news cycle in 2012, and Florida was once again in the spotlight. Controversy was garnered as a product of both long lines at the polls (a result of a shortened number of early voting days) and delayed results (while the other 49 states were all called on election night, Florida was not called until four days later). Ultimately, President Obama carried the state by a slim margin, gaining 4,237,756 votes to Governor Romney’s 4,163,447: a difference of just 72,976 or 0.9%. However, similar to the nation at large, the electoral maps generated for Florida might cause confusion to the untrained observer. As may be seen by the inset map, there are significantly more red counties than blue within the state. And therein lies the lesson that I convey to all my students, “Never use raw numbers when producing choropleth maps”. The failure to normalize for the population in each of these counties results in a misleading picture. As such, to account for variable population density within such maps, the application of the cartograms technique is frequently employed. In this case, a cartogram has been generated via the ‘Gastner-Newman’ method, where the size and shape of each county has been distorted according to the total number of votes acquired by both candidates in that county. The result is a state of Florida which is very evenly split by the hues of red and blue (Republican and Democrat), and thus better indicates its status as a ‘swing’ state.

James Gammack-Clark

FAU Center for Geo-Information Science

Department of Geosciences, Florida Atlantic University