Smith College Spatial Analysis Lab

April Mystery Map Solved!

Our past two mystery maps (showing the locations of carillons in North America and showing the path of zika) were solved within 24hrs after unleashing them into the wild. With this Mystery Map, we were hoping to stump our blog readers, but alas, this map was no match for your spatial thinking prowess.  The first correct response rolled in just 20 minutes after we published the map! In order of submission, here are all of our faithful readers who correctly guessed that this map displays the results of the Democrats Abroad Global Presidential Primary:

  1. Michael Madole
  2. Tracy Whelen
  3. Sara Kirk
  4. Miriam Neptune
  5. Jess Carboni

This primary, which took place from March 1 to March 8, allows American expats around the world to participate in the nomination process for the Democratic Party.  Interesting, this is not a process of absentee ballots: each of the countries here has its own polling station, and the results are tabulated by country instead of by expats’ home state. The first Democrats Abroad primary was organized in 1980.  Interestingly, the Republican party does not have an equivalent global primary.  On our map’s color scale, turquoise indicates a higher percentage of votes for Hillary, while purple indicates a higher percentage for Bernie. I for one was very surprised to see that Hillary only won three countries (the Dominican Republic, Singapore, and Nigeria, where only 5 total votes were cast).  Globally, Bernie received 69% of the vote and earned 9 pledged delegates as a result. On a related note, we’d like to recognize Jess Carboni (the first and only student to guess correctly!) for suggesting the most creative title for this map: “The Rest of the World Likes Bernie So Get Your $@!% Together America”.

This map was designed by our new SAL assistant, Kalynn Kosyka ’19.  Here’s how Kalynn describes making the map:

In order to process the data for this Mystery Map, I copied the table from this website and pasted all of the data into a *.txt file.  After creating the *.txt file, I used Python to filter and append certain things in order to make it into a *.csv file (a comma-delimited spreadsheet). A few tiny bugs occurred, but I was able to take them out by hand since they were very little. Once I got a *.csv file, I was able to then play with the data and all columns that might be useful when creating the mystery map on CartoDB.  For example, I was able to calculate the (absolute) difference of votes for Bernie and Hillary and created another column to tally the total between those two candidates. By doing so, we now have the opportunity to create proportional symbols if desired.

Thanks for your hard work, Kalynn! Kalynn is an intended computer science student, and we’re excited to have her on board to continue finding ways that GIS and computer science complement each other. There’s a lot of data online, and much of it is not in a GIS friendly format, so we anticipate that Kalynn will become our expert data-scraper for future Mystery Maps!

Upon first seeing the map, we were a little worried that it didn’t tell an interesting spatial story, since there is little variation throughout the world in terms of the Hillary/Bernie split.  Upon further reflection, I think there are two interesting stories in this map: first, it’s interesting to see where Democrats are living and organizing abroad.  Unsurprisingly, there are many organized Democrats living in Europe.  There are also significant contingents in the southern and eastern rim of Asia and in Central and South America.  However, there are not a lot of votes coming from Africa; perhaps there are less U.S. Citizens living in Africa, perhaps for some reason they tend to be Republicans, independents, or non-voters, or perhaps they tend not to be as organized as Democrats living elsewhere (maybe their stays in Africa are more temporary, due to programs like the Peace Corps, or maybe the state of telecommunications and transportation networks in the continent makes it difficult to organize).

Furthermore, the lack of variation itself is an interesting spatial narrative. Given that Hillary is generally seen as more experienced with foreign policy, it’s interesting that Democrats who live in areas where foreign policy is a part of daily life – such as the Middle East – still favor Bernie. I’d be interested to know if this means that Democrats Abroad actually favor Bernie, or if Bernie supporters abroad are simply more enthusiastic or more organized than Hillary supporters.

Thanks to all of you who participated. If you didn’t get this one, worry not…. we’re unleashing the next Mystery Map in just a few days!