Friday, May 20, 2022

How Election Maps Lie

Tomorrow (21 May 2022) Australia goes to the polls to elect a new government. Ahead of the election and before the results begin to be visualized ABC News has released an interesting analysis of how Australia voted in the last election and what the two main parties have to do to win this election. At the core of this analysis is a discussion of how electoral maps can actually distort the true picture of a national election.

In The Australian election map has been lying to you ABC News looks at the Australian political landscape using an electoral cartogram on which every electoral seat is represented as an equal sized colored hexagon. However, before introducing its Australian electoral cartogram, ABC uses a geographical map of Australia to show how the rural seat of Durack and the urban seat of Grayndler, in Sydney appear on a normal election map. Both areas have one seat in the Australian parliament however on a geographical map Durack covers a huge portion of western Australia, while Grayndler appears as just a tiny dot on the east coast. Of course on ABC's cartogram both seats are showm at the same size. 

Having established the rationale for its electoral cartogram ABC goes on to use its equal sized hexogram to explore Australia's political landscape in terms of geography and in terms of the differences in rural/urban political leanings. Using equal sized hexagons means that ABC are able to easily manipulate its Australian electoral cartogram, reorganizing the map at will. For example, redrawing the cartogram to show how many seats each party has in each state. 

On a geographical map of Australia's political parties the Coalition appears to have a much larger majority than they do in reality. ABC's cartogram shows that the actual breakdown of the current seats held by the Labor Party and the Coalition is in reality much closer. By moving its equal sized cartograms around ABC is able to explore the urban/rural differences in where the two main parties are most popular. It is also able to easily highlight where the most marginal seats are currently located as the two parties go into tomorrow's general election.

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