Is Texas really going purple? Our Heat Index shows how competitive your district was — and is.
Category: Best visualization (small and large newsrooms)
Country/area: United States
Organisation: Texas Tribune
Organisation size: Small
Publication date: 6 Apr 2019
Credit: Shiying Cheng and Ross Ramsey
We set out to explore whether the 2018 election results marked a new trend toward more competitive general elections or a one-time swerve away from the steady quarter-century pattern of Republican dominance in Texas.
The Tribune used voting data to explore whether the 2018 elections marked a new trend toward more competitive general elections or a one-time swerve away from the steady quarter-century pattern of Republican dominance. We created our own “Heat Index” to clearly visualize which districts were competitive — and which weren’t. Users can also look up an address and see that district’s competitiveness in different races over time. This project received tremendous feedback from readers, both political insiders and otherwise, who said they appreciated what the analysis told them about which way Texas could vote next.
This project was built with d3.js and the Tribune’s open-source development kit, which is built in node. We also used an in-house scrolling library for the narrative and district lookup tool for the customization. The development process involved lots of iteration and experiments with visualization techniques. The geography of the districts doesn’t matter nearly as much as how they have voted, so we decided to display that change over time as clusters of circles.
What was the hardest part of this project?
This project was developed by an intern at a time of enormous change for our organization — the team that she was part of was temporarily reduced from four to two full-time staffers, and they were both busy covering a legislative session. But, we knew that this story, which involved visualizing a data index developed by Ross Ramsey, our in-house expert on Texas politics, was important. As a publication dedicated to statewide reporting, we were the only organization that was going to tell the story. A rigorous editing process led us to a simple and clear visualization that readers greatly appreciated.
What can others learn from this project?
Interns are full team members who can do great work, given the opportunity! And, while a map may be geographic and a traditional choice, it isn’t the best way to visualize change in political districts.