September 03, 2008
By David Darlington
“Voting America: United States Politics, 1840-2008” is a new online project of the Digital Scholarship Lab at the University of Richmond. As we reported last week this site examines the evolution of presidential politics in the United States across the span of American history. We thought the site would be worth a closer look.
The project represents U.S. election data in a number of visually innovative ways. The “Cinematic Maps” section animates election results to show change over time. Here one can watch the evolution in state-level popular voting, presidential election results, popular support for Democrats/Republicans/Whigs/third parties, and voter turnout. One can also see the results of individual elections broken down via different data sets and track the growth of white and African American populations in the United States.
The “Interactive America” map allows the user direct manipulation of the election and census data available on the site. Here, the U.S. map is clickable down to the county level, and users can plot party allegiance and voting strength, track the growth in white and minority populations, count the total votes in an election and percentage of voter turnout, and identify a party’s margin of victory. Users can even select their own data set and number of years and animate the map in a style similar to the previous section. Depending on the amount of data requested this page may take a while to load even on fast connections.
Finally, users will want to see “Analysis and Commentary,” which features video commentary by the scholars involved in the project. Edward L. Ayers, Jennifer Erkulwater, and Dan Palazollo look at political alignment and party affiliation over time, provide historical context for the maps in the previous sections, and provide the user a brief history of political mapping in the era 1790-1950. This site may be particularly interesting for political historians.