Purple America, Updated
November 4, 2004 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Election 2004, county by county: For those who just can't get enough political mapping goodness. Here's the 2004 presidential election's Red/Blue divide at the county level, where possible. Lesson: most red states aren't quite as red as they seem, and blue states aren't as blue. Author has 2000 election data plotted as well, which I believe was posted earlier.
posted by mojohand (52 comments total)
Purple haze indeed. Curious, what is that almost all red belt in the center over Texas ? I bet analystist are going to be all busy figuring which issues stuck with who and why and finding constants, variable and correlations.
posted by elpapacito at 11:55 AM on November 4, 2004

Wow, amazing. This is exactly what kottke asked for.

We're not an Us vs. Them nation, but a 50-50% Us and Them nation. We're more alike than we are different.
posted by mathowie at 11:57 AM on November 4, 2004

Am I right in saying that the county-thing with the biggest Kerry vote was DC itself?
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:04 PM on November 4, 2004

Rebecca linked to the purple map for 2000 a few months ago, and I am glad to see one for this election. All of the red state/blue state stuff is crap, really. I think the division is more along urban/suburban/rural lines, m'self.

on preview: look at my little blue austin oasis on steve's map! someone throw me a life preserver!
posted by whatnot at 12:14 PM on November 4, 2004

The one thing this doesn't really depict accurately is the population of each area. One of those funky population-distorted cartograms. This one's for 1996, by state. One for 2004 by county would be frickin' sweet.
posted by condour75 at 12:14 PM on November 4, 2004

This will help with vacation planning.
posted by josephtate at 12:15 PM on November 4, 2004

Question: how comes there are some black squares ?
posted by elpapacito at 12:17 PM on November 4, 2004

elpapcito: Counties shown in black represent either missing election data or a mismatch between the US Census data and the USA Today data. For example, the New England states' election return data is given for each municipality and/or district rather than for each county. Hence, it couldn't be easily matched with the county boundaries.
posted by scottq at 12:19 PM on November 4, 2004

I mean, either that, or terrorists.
posted by scottq at 12:19 PM on November 4, 2004

Pretty_Generic: Apparently Aquinnah in Mass. went 92% to Kerry (vs. DC 90%)
posted by talos at 12:20 PM on November 4, 2004

Here's by state, as of sept 14. America is a dumbbell. I'd still like to see by county though. I suspect you'd see a more clearly balanced gradient than the geographically accurate map portrays.
posted by condour75 at 12:21 PM on November 4, 2004

And the final. (duh)
posted by condour75 at 12:22 PM on November 4, 2004

Thanks for posting this.

What I'd like to see is some synthesis of this with population density data... possibly using saturation to indicate density per county. Then I think we'd see that we're really a faint lavender (or pink, by S@L's (now yanked) map) nation with blue polka dots. :)

It would also be interesting to see to what extent a state's redness or blueness correlates with its internal density distribution. It seems to me that more than anything else this was an election of cities and the pre-war inner ring versus post-war suburbs and rural areas. Georgia's got more blue counties than Pennsylvania, but Allegheny (Pittsburgh) PA is more populous than Fulton (Atlanta) GA, largely owing to a greater degree of urbanization (even though the Atlanta MSA is twice the side of the Pittsburgh MSA).
posted by Vetinari at 12:25 PM on November 4, 2004

Although the maps are pretty, what we have is a 49-51 percent split in the population as to whether this country is going in the right direction or not. I don't know what is exactly so hard to conceptualize about that, but for some reason many on the political Right somehow seem to believe that it was more like a Saddamesque 1-99 percent split.

In any event they own all the branches of national governence now, so I guess we'll see if things work out for them. I wish them well (for my sake as a citizen of said country), but recent experience leads one to be skeptical of their competence ...
posted by moonbiter at 12:39 PM on November 4, 2004

Nice graph. The print NYT today has a beautiful population-adjusted red/blue map, lower right corner of the back page of the election section. Worth a look if you're into this kind of thing.

See also BoingBoing's Purple Haze post and my own related blog entry.
posted by Nelson at 12:40 PM on November 4, 2004

There's always this chart.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 12:46 PM on November 4, 2004

Isn't that map missing a few states?
posted by fletchmuy at 12:47 PM on November 4, 2004

Yea, funny that. my county in the middle of NC voted Kerry by a substantial margin...
posted by glenwood at 12:52 PM on November 4, 2004

posted by graventy at 12:53 PM on November 4, 2004


It's a fake. The little note at the bottom fails to mention that the Economist retracted that table the month after it (stupidly) published it. Come on now, numerous states with 110+ average IQ's? If that were the case, the whole 100="average" standard would have to be calibrated.
posted by rxrfrx at 12:54 PM on November 4, 2004

Antibellum US. Look familiar?
posted by condour75 at 12:58 PM on November 4, 2004

uh.. that should be antebellum. They were quite pro-bellum.
posted by condour75 at 12:59 PM on November 4, 2004

Just looking at the township results within my county in Ohio, dividing it up by county doesn't even work well- the percentages mirror the percentages of the popular vote - meaning that we all have permission to tell anyone who tries to claim that the nation is politically divided along any kind of geographical lines that they are divisive motherfuckers who are full of shit.*

*Or, you know, that they're just wrong. The "divisive motherfuckers" are mostly pundits. You know who you are, assholes.
posted by eustacescrubb at 1:02 PM on November 4, 2004

that map makes my day.
posted by graventy at 1:03 PM on November 4, 2004

When did we go back to 48 states?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:06 PM on November 4, 2004

...what we have is a 49-51 percent split in the population as to whether this country is going...

Not even that. That particular question was probably in the corrected exit polls. You can probably get a specific ratio for it.

Looking at the map, and I know from the numbers, that Santa Fe county in NM is one of the bluest counties. It was ~75% Kerry to ~25% Bush.

I look at that map and think: "Hmm. Lessee...Utah, Nebraska, and NW Texas. Those are places I definitely don't want to live." And, having had the misfortune of living in NW Texas (both Amarillo and Lubbock, sadly, and growing up only 90 miles away from both) I can assure you that, yep, I know from experience I don't want to live there.

New Mexico's nearly blue and it really is a shame that Bush won the state. As I've said elsewhere, it's striking and revealing that he did so without winning Albuquerque (which is half the pop). You can see from the map that Kerry also won Santa Fe and Las Cruces, the next largest cities. Basically, Bush won New Mexico by getting really lopsided numbers in the rural anglo counties. Roosevelt county, where I grew up, was 30-70 to Bush. The county to the north of it, Curry county, was 25-75. (It's interesting to note that Curry was more lopsided than Roosevelt, even though it's single town is three times the size. But that's because about a third of the population in Roosevelt county is associated with a state university.)

The big red band starting in NW Texas and going straight up is low-population density farming country. It probably roughly follows the ogalala aquifer, I bet.

The spots of blue in Texas are, basically, Dallas to the NE; Houston to the SE; Austin in the center, El Paso to the far west; and the Rio Grande valley to the south. Only one of those regions swing left because of white liberals (Austin). Every other spot of blue on that map is because of minorities. I'm not discounting the minority votes! No, I'm just pointing out that the GOP has been pretty successful of eliminating most white Dem support in Texas. Remarkable given the yellow dog legacy. (Actually, it is worth pointing out because the DeLay strategy is to marginalize, or effectively all but erase, those minority Dem votes in Texas, at least on the national level.)
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:08 PM on November 4, 2004

It seems liberals tend to live near water. I was suprised by that liberal grouping along the lower Mississippi.
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 1:11 PM on November 4, 2004

posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 1:15 PM on November 4, 2004

The Pine Ridge and Rosebud Sioux reservations in South Dakota really stand out as blue islands. Pretty much everything representing "Indian Country" does.
posted by gimonca at 1:19 PM on November 4, 2004

I was surprised by that liberal grouping along the lower Mississippi.

I think a lot of that is the African-American vote, as is the narrow belt from mid-Mississippi to tidewater Virginia.r
posted by gimonca at 1:23 PM on November 4, 2004

Hi there, Ethereal Bligh.

I think I'm the only member of MetaFilter in the Texas Panhandle. Looking at the map, I was surprised that Potter County went 30% D, 70% R. So there are small pockets of sanity across the the red belt of Texas, just not enough.
posted by the biscuit man at 1:26 PM on November 4, 2004

"Question: how comes there are some black squares ?"

See that big black square in Utah? That's Emery county. Ain't nothin' out there but four inbred Mormons and a herd of sheep.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 1:36 PM on November 4, 2004

Hi, the biscuit man. Um, you think that 30% Kerry represents a pocket of sanity in the panhandle?? Heh. Actually, during the time I lived in Amarillo, I met some of the most radical leftists I've known. Violent anarchists. But, you know, living there can do that to you.

I grew up in Portales. And, granted, it's a small university town with only 12K people, and, other than some college students, no black people at all (well, one family). But I almost never heard the n-word growing up in P-ville. But when I moved to Amarillo for a few years in the eighties? Different story. I worked in a store in Westgate Mall and I heard it from customers more than once. I mean, you know, because I was white. I was one of them. Freaked me the fuck out. My sister when to Amarillo High and, boy, do I wish I could go back and change that life path for her. I've written about her a lot here, she's an evangelical minister/missionary and all her instincts are pretty liberal (don't tell her I said that). If she'd grown up anywhere else, she'd almost certainly have been a leftist Christian radical. As it is, growing up in Amarillo warped her mind. She's firmly snug in the world of the Christian right, but doing her best to carve out something that really is "compassionate conservatism". As well as an evangelical fundamentalist Christian reading of the Scriptures that sees women as equal partners. She's subversive in her own way, really.

But between you and me, I blame Amarillo for everything that's awkward today between me and my sister. Maybe that's not fair, but, hell, it's Amarillo. I hate that place.

Honestly, though, it's really not much worse than anywhere else. I certainly met some good people there. Okay, yeah, a lot of bad people. But some good people, too.

Oh, and I can also say that although I loved living in Austin, and it truly is an oasis in Texas...a lot of things are still very apparent there. Like racism and segration. As a New Mexican boy who was originally from central/north NM and has lived there before and lives there now...the fact that the liberal oasis of Austin is deeply segregated told me a lot about Texas that I didn't like.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 1:41 PM on November 4, 2004

Here's a times map which takes population density into account. I wonder what it would look like using purples for tossup counties, but I think the pattern becomes pretty clear.
posted by condour75 at 1:53 PM on November 4, 2004

radical leftists I've known. Violent anarchists.

Huh? Leftist != Anarchist. Quite the contrary.
posted by glenwood at 1:53 PM on November 4, 2004

I was wondering why the blaze of blue in SD.
posted by Mitheral at 2:05 PM on November 4, 2004

There are leftist anarchists just as there are rightist anarchists.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:36 PM on November 4, 2004

"I was wondering why the blaze of blue in SD."

I'm assuming Indian reservations.
posted by chris24 at 3:06 PM on November 4, 2004

that blue dot totally encircled by red is Atlanta?
posted by amberglow at 3:18 PM on November 4, 2004

what I wanna know is: why are there any red parts?
posted by mcsweetie at 3:23 PM on November 4, 2004

what I wanna know is: why are there any red parts?

Because you've been rubbing them too much. Here's some lube.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:40 PM on November 4, 2004

Different regions have different interpretations of the terms "Republican" and "Democrat."

Suburban communities likely lean Republican because of economic issues. They want lower taxes on higher earners (themselves). Rural Republicans are more likely to be the conservative Bible-thumping variety. Conversely, there is a mix between Democrats too. Some are Dems because of liberal social issues and others are so because of their blue collar labor force self identification.

Try looking up Democratic donations in some of the communities you've lived in at Fundrace.org. I found Democrats in Oregon and Washington gave to candidates like Dean and Kucinich while those in Las Vegas and Indiana gave to more conservative candidates like Wesley Clark and Joe Lieberman.

This country really needs more political parties. We're certainly more complicated than just Red vs Blue.
posted by b_thinky at 3:46 PM on November 4, 2004

I find red vs. blue to be an annoying colour choice: the purple, to my eye, looks more like red than blue, distorting my perception of the map.

Anyone able to find a map with better colour choices?
posted by five fresh fish at 4:08 PM on November 4, 2004

Thanks for posting that image, condour75. That's the NYT image I liked so much. Scan doesn't quite do it justice!
posted by Nelson at 4:58 PM on November 4, 2004


yes, that would be atlanta. the red circle would definitely represent all those icky OTP (outside the perimeter) people. :)

interesting to see similar patterns in other places up north, and it makes me happy see that little blue dot due east of atlanta... athens, ga. time for a cocktail! ta!
posted by tsuki777 at 4:59 PM on November 4, 2004

So how about a million of us New Yorkers and Californians just set up a commune in Ohio or New Mexico? We could call it Swingville. It'd be better than Burning Man.

Either that or wait for global warming to sink florida. Should be any year now...
posted by condour75 at 5:05 PM on November 4, 2004

We could call it Swingville. It'd be better than Burning Man.

Well, it's not saying much to compare Swingville to the complete nothingness of a ridiculously flat stretch of utterly lifeless alkaline desert. I'd hope Ohio is a bit more interesting than that.

(I kid because I love!)
posted by DaShiv at 5:43 PM on November 4, 2004

My little dot of blue doesn't even show up in my completely flushed state.
posted by weston at 9:05 PM on November 4, 2004

I'd hope Ohio is a bit more interesting than that

You'd hope so, but you'd be wrong. There is life, but it's cows.
posted by kindall at 10:31 PM on November 4, 2004

This is exactly what kottke asked for.

What I would like to see is a map showing what the electoral vote would have been if the country was divided into not 50 voting areas but 538 (with each congressional district given one electoral vote, plus each state awarding two votes to the overall victor). I.E., the way we do it in Maine.

It seems crazy, not to mention completely undemocratic, that presidential candidates who win a state by as little as, say, 537 votes get all of the electoral votes.
posted by LeLiLo at 10:45 PM on November 4, 2004

There is an "interactive" version of the map that Nelson and condour75 are talking about here:

posted by Irontom at 5:49 AM on November 5, 2004

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