Visualizations: Government/Politics

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This page is maintained by Dominique Thiebaut and contains various interesting visualization examples or related material found in the media and on the Web, in various forms. The authors of the visualization, or its source is indicated in the Author/Source field of each entry. I try to locate the actual authors as best as I can. I also try to find out what particular software tools were used to generate the visualization. This is reported in the implementation field.

The different visualization systems shown below are organized by application domains, and by type (borrowed and adapted from Viz4All).

The application domains include:

Visu Gove.png


Crime Report Statistics


Category: Government/Politics
Implementation: NA
Date: 2013

From Our latest data visualization, an examination of U.S. gun murders, started as an internal exploration of the data, but soon evolved into a visualization that we were compelled to share.

The Unified Crime Report includes voluntarily-reported data from police precincts across the country, and represents more than 285 million U.S. inhabitants—94.6% of the total population.

Cartograms of the 2012 Election Results

Goot-Colley Cartograms


Category: Gov/Politics
Author/Source: Princeton & U. Alabama
Implementation: NA
Date: Nov. 2012

From [1]: Colley and Gott had a very simple idea in September: take the median of the last month's polls in every state, and use the result to predict the election. Such a simple system is at odds with the much more common, much more elaborate technical and fundamental analyses applied to the polls, such as mathematical trend analysis, or adjustment for the "youth vote."

The median, as any high school student could remind you is just the middle item in a sorted list--the median of {3,4,1,9,17,1,6} is 4; sort the list and pick the middle one. The median has the advantage of throwing out statistically unlikely results (such as 17 in the list above), as opposed to the usual average (mean), which can be biased by a single bad entry.

Colley and Gott applied this method, without adjustment, as the polls came in each day. They began to notice that there was very little movement even over the course of a full month. As more polls rolled in, the state poll medians became more and more reliable. By the end, most swing states had at least 30 polls, and so the medians were very reliable indeed, but only if the polls themselves were unbiased, and there were no major up or down trends during the month, two big "ifs." (The second "if" required that no "October surprise" or major gaffe take place.)

Newman's Cartograms for the 2012 Elections


Category: Government/Politics
Author/Source: Paul Newman, U. Michigan
Implementation: NA
Date: Nov 2012

From Newman's FAQ page: The cartograms were made using the diffusion method of Gastner and Newman (of which I'm one of the inventors). The population data and geographic boundaries were taken from the US Census.

The calculation of the cartograms involves allowing the population to diffuse in the two-dimensional space of the map, carrying the boundaries of the states or counties with it, until it reaches a uniform equilibrium. The diffusion equation is integrated in Fourier space, where it takes a particularly simple form: the initial density function is evaluated on a 4608x3072 lattice, transformed using a two-dimensional fast Fourier transform, convolved with a Gaussian kernel, and then back-transformed to give the diffusion field at an arbitrary later time. I used closed (Neumann) boundary conditions at the edges of the map, meaning that the Fourier transform in this case is a discrete cosine transform.

The diffusion field is then used to calculate the diffusion velocity as a function of position and the velocity integrated over time to give the displacement of the map features. The integration is performed using a fourth-order Runge-Kutta integrator with an adaptive step size and local extrapolation. The entire calculation took about ten minutes for each map on a standard desktop computer running the Fedora Linux operating system. The basic images were created using a specially written rendering program and some artistic refinements were added using Gimp, a free image manipulation program.

See here for the entry about the 2008 election cartograms.

Population Pyramids Revisited


Category: Government/Politics
Implementation: NA
Date: July 2011

An example of very colorful and aesthetically pleasing graphs presented on that unfortunately lack a legend and axes (except for a few graphs, one of which is shown above.). Once compared to the government census data pyramids (shown below), it gets easier to figure out how to read these graphs. Work in progress, with a great start and originality.


Better-Life Index


Category: Social/Government
Implementation: NA
Date: May 2011

From For over fifty years, the OrganisaIon for Economic CooperaIon and Development (OECD) has helped governments design better policies for better lives for their citizens. It provides a forum in which leaders and policy makers can work together to share experiences and seek solutions to common problems, and produces high‐quality internationally comparable staIsIcs used to understand what drives economic, social and environmental change.

Religion as Financial Destiny?


Category: Religion/Education
Author/Source: NYT
Implementation: NA
Date: May 11, 2011

From NYT: The most affluent of the major religions — including secularism — is Reform Judaism. Sixty-seven percent of Reform Jewish households made more than $75,000 a year at the time the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life collected the data, compared with only 31 percent of the population as a whole. Hindus were second, at 65 percent, and Conservative Jews were third, at 57 percent.

Human Development Index


Category: Government/Politics
Author/Source: Human Development Reports
Implementation: SVG created with Raphael.
Date: April 2011

From The HDI Tree a visual representation that can be used to illustrate the Human Development Index together with its components and subcomponents. The design rules of the HDI tree are:

  • The height of the tree trunk is proportional to the total value of the HDI
  • The size of the three branches are proportional to each sub-indicator
  • The branches are ordered in increasing order from left to right
  • The color of the trunk is the average of the color of the components

Massachusetts Budget


Category: Government/Politics
Implementation: NA
Date: 2011

From The [...] graphic is a massive visual guide to the Massachsettes state budget. It presents hundreds of government departments, agencies, and programs in a visual format, proportionate in size to their funding level. The largest item is $15 billion, the smallest is $65 thousand.
This was designed by Jess Bachman and commissioned by the Pioneer Institute.

The NYT maps census data


Category: Political/Census
Author/Source: The New York Times
Implementation: GoogleMap API
Date: Dec 2010

From The New York Times: Browse local data from the Census Bureau's American Community Survey, based on samples from 2005 to 2009. Because these figures are based on samples, they are subject to a margin of error, particularly in places with a low population, and are best regarded as estimates.

Wikileaks Nov/Dec 2010


Category: Politics/Social Network
Implementation: Tableau
Date: Dec. 2010

From Wikileaks have created a set of interactive visualizations to give an overview over the amount, origin subject, categorization, program, topic and classification of the leaked documents. The visualizations are created using Tableau Public which seems to have a good adoption in the online journalism space lately.

Traffic Light Redesign


Category: Social/Government/Politics
Author/Source: Thanva Tivawong, designer at Yanko Design
Implementation: LEDs
Date: 2010

Flight Patterns of Refugees


Category: Government/Politics
Author/Source: Christian Behrens
Implementation: NA

This is a very nice set of three different visualizations showing the flow of refugees through the world over a time scale, using data from the UN.

From Every year, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) issues a report concerning the number of approximately 21 million people worldwide falling under its mandate: as refugees who are forced to leave their countries due to war, political, racial or religious persecution, as internally displaced persons, or as repatriates on their way back home. This interactive visualization attempts to give an insight into the phenomenom of global flight and expulsion. It is based on the annual statistical reports of the UNHCR between 1988 and 2008.

Who is Funding California's Prop 23?


Category: Business/Politics
Implementation: NA
Date: Oct. 2010

From If passed, Proposition 23 would suspend the California Global Warming Act of 2006 (AB 32) which requires that greenhouse gas emissions in the state be cut to 1990 levels by 2020.
At least 93% of contributions being pumped into California's Proposition 23 are from energy companies that would be regulated by the energy and climate legislation they are trying to overturn. Much of the money has been used to collect the signatures to get Proposition 23 on the ballot, and to fund research that supposedly proves that clean energy would cost jobs.

Following Twitter Posts from and about Politicians


Category: Government/Politics
Author/Source: New York Times and captured in
Implementation: NA
Date: Nov. 2010

From In what seems to have become an expectation during all major events, a Twitter tracker from the New York Times shows you what candidates are getting the most and least buzz. Each circle represents tweets from a candidate, retweets, and tweets direct at, colored appropriately by party. Press play and they grow and shrink over time. Select a specific candidate(s) to see the specific breakdowns.

Billionaire's Favorite Politicians


Category: Government/Politics
Author/Source: Jon Bruner, for, reported in
Implementation: NA
Date: Oct. 2010

From, Jon Bruner, the author of the Forbes article, explains some of the visualization parameters: I can explain a bit about the measurement for horizontal placement: in the case of billionaires, it’s the ratio of money given to Democrats to money given to Republicans. If you contribute more to Democrats to Republicans, your circle is left of the centerline; more to Republicans, it’s to the right of the centerline. Those clusters along the left and right edges are billionaires who give exclusively to one party. (Non-aligned PACs are neutral for the purposes of computing this left/right score, even in cases like American Crossroads where there’s an undoubted political leaning; we just stuck with the technical definitions here.) There are a handful of donors in the dead center, like Steve Ballmer, who seem to go out of their way to contribute equal amounts to the two parties, and their donation patterns (i.e., contributions to both the Republican and Democratic congressional campaign committees) suggest that their political involvement is a business matter, not an ideological one.
Politicians’ partisanship scores are averages of their donors’ scores, weighted by donations. (And politicians’ circles are colored according to party–red = Republican; blue = Democratic; yellow = other.) Politicians generally appear where you’d expect them to; Joe Lieberman is pretty much on the centerline; Texan Democrats (like Chet Edwards and Henry Cuellar) are to the right of their colleagues; Coastal Republicans (like Dave Reichert and Jim Saxton) are to the left of theirs.
Vertical placement is random, I’m afraid. I just needed a way to separate the circles enough for the graphic to be readable.

The 50 States and Their Debt


Category: Government/Politics
Implementation: NA
Date: 2010

Main Reference:

Obesity and Hunger


Category: Socio-Economics
Author/Source: JESS3
Implementation: NA
Date: Sept. 2010

The infographic first appeared in an article Cause Shift's Anne Mei Bertelsen's in the Huffington Post entitled "Visualizing Hunger and Its Impact: Why We Need a Hunger Data Consortium" from where this paragraph is taken:

Utilizing currently available data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the JESS3-designed info graphic looks at the rates of obesity, food insecurity, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) participation and poverty in the 50 states. It shows states with high levels of food insecurity also have high rates of obesity. In addition, 14 states have both higher than the national average rate of food insecurity and obesity. It also suggests that the current levels of SNAP participation are not high enough to keep food insecurity or obesity at low levels (see Mississippi, Missouri, Texas, Kentucky or Kansas for example).

A good overview of the visualization can be found on


Category: Social Graphs/Government/Policies
Author/Source: GESIS + Kognito Gestaltung, Germany
Implementation: NA
Date: NA

From SIMon is an online information system and allows comfortable access to the time series data from two systems of social indicators developed and maintained by the Social Indicators Research Centre of GESIS:

The German System of Social Indicators (German Data) is an instrument that has been developed with a view to monitor well-being in terms of objective living conditions as well as subjective quality of life - and general social change in Germany. Covering 14 life domains, the system includes almost 400 indicators with a total of more than 3000 time series.

SIMon Web Site:

The World's Best Countries


Category: Government/Sociology
Author/Source: Thomas Klepl and Adam Clarkson,
Implementation: NA
Date: Aug. 2010

From Newsweek: In NEWSWEEK’s first-ever Best Countries special issue, we set out to answer a question that is at once simple and incredibly complex—if you were born today, which country would provide you the very best opportunity to live a healthy, safe, reasonably prosperous, and upwardly mobile life? Many organizations measure various aspects of national competitiveness. But none attempt to put them all together. For this special survey, then, NEWSWEEK chose five categories of national well-being—education, health, quality of life, economic competitiveness, and political environment—and compiled metrics within these categories across 100 nations.

Europe's Web of Debts


Category: Gov/Economics
Author/Source: New York Times, May 1, 2010
Implementation: NA
Date: May 2010

Chart Wars: The Political Power of Data Visualization


Category: humor
Implementation: NA
Date: 2010

From BlipTV: A funny thing happened during this summer's health care debate: a chart that purported to show the organizational structure of the Democratic health care reform proposal took over the media cycle and triggered a partisan visualization volley. Since then, the original chart has frequently been used as a provocative protest sign and is now the subject of a congressional investigation. What was it that made this data visualization so powerful and politically potent? How can your organization or your cause harness data visualization as a messaging medium? With these health care chart wars as a backdrop, this presentation will show you how to be a smart consumer of data visualizations and infographics.

Cartograms of 2008 Election

Geographic, Government / Politics
Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems, University of Michigan

Implementation: 2D
Date: 2008

Maps of the 2008 US presidential election results, generated by M. E. J. Newman, U. Michigan.

The map on the left is geographically correct. The map on the right shows the states deformed in such a way that their area is now proportional to the number of electoral votes they carry.

The author is a co-author of the Atlas of the Real World (Hardcover) published by by Daniel Dorling (Author), Mark Newman (Author), Anna Barford (Author), published Oct. 2008. AtlasRealWorld.jpg

More cartograms can be found here.

A String of Debates

A string of debates

Category: Political/Government, Newsprint
Author/Source: NYT
Implementation: 2D
Date: 2008

From the NYT, 12/15/2007 article: "A String of Debates", showing statistics on words/concepts appearing in candidates speeches

CCByNc.png You can remix, tweak, and build upon this page non-commercially. Your work must acknowledge Dominique Thiebaut as its author and be non-commercial.