The “Maker” States Win 2012 Election (Generously Giving to Red States)

Two Color Map That Leads On Astray

Two Color Map That Leads Astray

Today I saw the 2012 election map like the one above1. It looks overwhelmingly red and the tagline that came with it was something like “Look how much red is required to support the little blue”. If I might rephrase this to express what I think is the implication, “Look how many ‘makers’ it takes to support the ‘takers’.”

How we present data is hugely important and all too often I think the geeks don’t think enough about the message and graphics to help humans understand the data, not just read the numbers. And of course bad presentation choices can be deliberate to make a point.

The right question is very important and here’s what I think it the right question: ¿Do we elect a president by population or acres? I know, it seems stupid, but doesn’t the tagline with the mailing raise that question? I believe we should approach it not by acres but by people (yes I know, the Electoral College (and 2000 Bush vs Gore decision where it came down to 5 justices to 4) distort this some).

If you check out Maps of the 2008 Presidential Election Results (2012 results don’t seem to be complete yet) you can see many variations. My favorite follows. Rather than two colors which overemphasizes differences they use a more graduated scale. And they distort the map so that equal populations take equal areas.

2008 Election Map Showing Shades of Red v Blue and Equal Populations Adjusted to Equal Areas

2008 Election Map Showing Shades of Red v Blue and Equal Populations Adjusted to Equal Areas

Doesn’t look so dramatically out of line does it? And of course this is a Homer Simpson “D’OH!” moment. The 2008 election split 53% to 46% so it should be pretty evenly split.

You say: But the implication was about Makers and Takers. What about that?!?!

Good point. A number of Republicans and conservatives are on TV and radio saying the election is a tipping point where the takers are now in control. Let’s look at that with a quick back of the envelope analysis (I’m busy and don’t have time for a lot of work right now on this). I like “peer reviewed” information, since it works out many errors in data, so of course I went to Wikipedia to find Federal taxation and spending by state. Analyzing this I found the numbers don’t add up, so now (dang it) I feel an obligation to go in and correct it someday.

I went and looked for original data but found the federal site closed down because the department was closed (budget cuts?).  So I found the Tax Foundation had 2005 data (their most recent) adjusted to be “deficit neutral”. Wikipedia tells us this is non-partisan but some claim are conservative and pro-business leaning. Sounds good!

How much are the blue states taking for every dollar they give the federal government? They get back $0.99, so they’ve generously been loosing 1¢ for every dollar in taxes.

And the red states? They’re taking $1.37 for every dollar in taxes they paid, making 37¢ for every dollar they pay.

Let me be clear: the Red States get a lot more than they pay for, some would call them “takers” or “moochers”. The Blue States essentially pay for what they get.

The NYT’s got a good look at what this looks like on the ground. Check out the New York Times February 12, 2012 article “Even Critics of Safety Net Increasingly Depend On It“.

My table of data is below:

FY 2005 2012 Winner
Florida $0.97 Obama (?)
California $0.78 Obama
Colorado $0.81 Obama
Connecticut $0.69 Obama
Delaware $0.77 Obama
Hawaii $1.44 Obama
Illinois $0.75 Obama
Iowa $1.10 Obama
Maine $1.41 Obama
Maryland $1.30 Obama
Massachusetts $0.82 Obama
Michigan $0.92 Obama
Minnesota $0.72 Obama
Nevada $0.65 Obama
New Hampshire $0.71 Obama
New Jersey $0.61 Obama
New Mexico $2.03 Obama
New York $0.79 Obama
Ohio $1.05 Obama
Oregon $0.93 Obama
Pennsylvania $1.07 Obama
Rhode Island $1.00 Obama
Vermont $1.08 Obama
Virginia $1.51 Obama
Washington $0.88 Obama
Wisconsin $0.86 Obama
Average for Blue States $0.99
Alabama $1.66 Romney
Alaska $1.84 Romney
Arizona $1.19 Romney
Arkansas $1.41 Romney
Georgia $1.01 Romney
Idaha $1.21 Romney
Indiana $1.05 Romney
Kansas $1.12 Romney
Kentucky $1.51 Romney
Louisiana $1.78 Romney
Mississippi $2.02 Romney
Missouri $1.32 Romney
Montana $1.47 Romney
Nebraska $1.10 Romney
North Carolina $1.08 Romney
North Dakota $1.68 Romney
Oklahoma $1.36 Romney
South Carolina $1.35 Romney
South Dakota $1.53 Romney
Tennessee $1.27 Romney
Texas $$0.94 Romney
Utah $1.07 Romney
West Virginia $1.76 Romney
Wyoming $1.11 Romney
Average for Red States $1.37

Show 1 footnote

  1. This was posted on Snoops

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