Red v. Blue v. . . . Purple?
March 10, 2001 9:48 AM   Subscribe

Red v. Blue v. . . . Purple? Was America really so divided in the 2000 election? A map created as a retort to Salon's "Red v. Blue" map tells the real story. Any and all Prince references/jokes permitted.
posted by raysmj (22 comments total)
I think people are missing the point. The Red vs. Blue just shows that each particular state that was RED, Bush would have taken and of course BLUE, Gore would have taken. It doesn't say that all the voters voted for that particular candidate 100% per state. I certainly hope people know that. But then there are some pretty stupid people when it comes to the election.

Can anybody say Florida???
posted by the_0ne at 10:29 AM on March 10, 2001

This map is deceptive, too, since red equals 100% Bush and blue equals 100% Gore, an impossibility in elections on both sides. My feeling is that even landslide elections would look overwhelmingly purple, since presidential candidates very rarely win with 60% of a state, and usually less than that.
posted by argybarg at 10:32 AM on March 10, 2001

True argybarg. I was thinking about the purple-ish one some more and it was actually a damn good idea, however, I think the person that designed it should have used a wider gradiant. It is clearly slanted towards Gore since it is such a much darker color than the lighter red on the other side. I'm not saying that the person was slanted towards Gore, that may be the case, or may not be the case, I can't say. But I just think that a brighter red, on the other side of the gradient, would have showed a better picture. Just my opinion though. :)
posted by the_0ne at 10:39 AM on March 10, 2001

It's not at all rare for presidential candidates to win 60% of a state. It's rare for candidates to win 60% in a state where both major parties are viable and have few policy differences with the national party, but there are a bunch of states where this isn't the case (as well as DC). In about 1/4 of all states this year, someone won by more than 20%, despite a total popular vote within a quarter percent.

I don't have historical data on hand, but I suspect that there are 10-20 states where the winner gets >60% of the vote most of the time, though rarely more than that. A landslide for one candidate will expand margins in some states (Republicans always win in Indiana, but a landslide GOP win would probably push the margin over 20%) and make some states close that aren't normally (like Vermont or Delaware).
posted by drothgery at 11:27 AM on March 10, 2001

I haven't pored over the data myself, but if anyone would like to take a whack at it, a great source for historical election numbers is the Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections.
posted by Aaaugh! at 12:08 PM on March 10, 2001

The red versus blue map accurately reflects how the electoral process works. A lot of people believe that if the purple map reflected how our election process works (by majority), Gore would now be prez. I think the gradient used is fine - just a little more blue, that's all :-)
posted by xammerboy at 12:18 PM on March 10, 2001

It doesn't say that all the voters voted for that particular candidate 100% per state.

TV commentators such as Mike Barnicle and Peggy Noonan have made a big deal out of the red-blue map, claiming that Middle America is decent, God-fearing and Republican while the only places that vote Democratic are isolated reprobates on the coasts who think the rest of the country is "flyover states."
posted by rcade at 12:26 PM on March 10, 2001

Suppose I wanted to map your vocal range on a chart. Suppose I decided to map it against the range of frequencies detectable to the human ear -- the lowest audible sound in blue, highest in red. Your vocal range would be a miniscule sliver of purple. The widest vocal range in human history would look almost exactly the same as yours -- a miniscule sliver of purple.

What would be fairer would be to map your vocal range against the known extremes of human vocal range. That would allow a meaningful comparison between your vocal range and mine, or anyone else's.

The same mistake is made in this map -- the extremes represent a 100% vote for either candidate, which doesn't happen.

Incidentally, drothgery, Clinton topped 60% three times, looks like: Washington, D.C. in 1992; and Massachussets and D.C. in '96.
posted by argybarg at 12:39 PM on March 10, 2001

TV commentators such as Mike Barnicle and Peggy Noonan have made a big deal out of the red-blue map, claiming that Middle America is decent, God-fearing and Republican while the only places that vote Democratic are isolated reprobates on the coasts who think the rest of the country is "flyover states."

I think the RED/BLUE map was exactly right, because it does show exactly what most people know. The more people that voted for Bush are conservative states like the farm belt areas and of course the more liberal areas like New York, PA and California, to name a few, are the ones that voted for Gore. I mean that's just a known. Can you imagine this art problem in New York right now, the one with the naked black woman at the last supper happening in Idaho where Bush won the state by 69%. It just wouldn't happen. People are much more conservative there.

So, again, I think the RED/BLUE map is just showing the obvious.
posted by the_0ne at 12:43 PM on March 10, 2001

In re to the "art problem."

Kind of ridiculous isn't it? If NY is absolutely positively known to be liberal and open-minded in every respect, why do they have this art problem in the first place? Can you get out the map showing which states have more believers in hell and then say, well, NY people still believe in hell more than the democratic populations in Canada and Europe?

Or it it that NYC has for decades been a center for entertainment and the arts and they just have more artists to cause potential controversy. They also have a lot of folks on hand to cause controversy. I heard someone say the difference is that NY will allow Rudy to engage in adultery without shame and come back fairly promptly. But sheesh, you've had the same thing happen in southern states for years. (Maybe on the national level politicians become abstractions rather than the flawed people they know at home.) I even remember, growing up in Miss., a Dem. winning a gubernatorial election in a landslide after Repubs. charged that he had paid to have sexual relations with transsexual prostitutes of a race not his own. Please recall, meantime, that the biggest art controversy of the past 25 years or so, the Mapplethorpe one, started in heavily Republican Ohio.

Point here? The whole "attitudes toward art" thing sounds a little fishy, not totally off but not on the money. (Also: Pennsylvania?). Might have more to do with, say, unionization and such, as well as the power of certain religious figures, movements. Dems have very few public and competitive spokespeople in so much of the South and the heartland.
posted by raysmj at 1:08 PM on March 10, 2001

I sort of see what you're saying raysmj. I think one of the reasons the "art thing" is so big is that it is New York. Everybody knows everybody, everywhere can find out what is going on in New York because it's New York, how many millions of people live in that one city. I think that might be one of the reasons it is such a huge debate.

I try not to get into the art thing, it was mostly an example in my post. I can support the first ammendment and you can design, draw, invent, whatever you want to. I just don't think I should have to pay for it. I don't live in New York and don't like large cities anyway. (I live in the suburbs of a pretty small city.) I think that's the main concern over the problem. I'm sure there are people that think nobody should create works of art like that, I would never be that naive. To each is own, whatever floats your boat, whatever trips your trigger to name a few. But again, I think the money part of it is more the problem, which I can understand.

But again, I'm not going around lobbying for anything because I could care less. Now when it comes to my town, look out. :)
posted by the_0ne at 1:18 PM on March 10, 2001

the_0ne is totally right. If you look at the reddest areas they happen to be the low-population areas of the US. If you look at the bluish places and then look at the county-by-county breakdown Gore took almost all of the high-population centers, like NYC, Chicago, LA, even a good deal of southern Texas. Hence, Bush took more geographical area, but less votes. Overall, the country is highly divided despite the redness of the map. Remember, a majority of the population did vote for Gore. A very slim major, but that's what makes the country so divided. All the maps show is that in politics we are divided by geography.
posted by Bag Man at 1:45 PM on March 10, 2001

Bag Man: The blueish counties for Bush in southern Texas were heavily Hispanic areas, not the high population centers. Houston's further to the east of the blueish area and it's all Bush, as is Dallas-Fort Worth. (I believe that little blueish county toward the center, but a bit east of center, is Austin.) Also please note a large blueish stream going up the Mississippi River. Those counties are majority black and serious farming areas. There is also a large blueish belt through Alabama that is majority black. Then there are quite a few places where Bush barely won, and they just happen to be light red, which is over 50 percent, or very light red, which means "plurality." They are scattered all over the place. The deepest red is to be found in the vast expanse of the non-coastal West.
posted by raysmj at 2:02 PM on March 10, 2001

Flyover states? I like to call them the "junk in the middle". But of course I'm one of those liberals who's lived on "the blue side" of both coasts.
posted by owillis at 1:34 AM on March 11, 2001

Cool, I was wondering when this would turn to some good old fashion flaming.

Well, owillis, I've always considered "the blue side" to be the most corrupt and immoral parts of the U.S. and someday they'll fall off into the ocean. :)

Damn, shouldn't say that, I live VERY close to the one of the most immoral and liberal cities there is, good ol' Philly, so I'll be going with it.

I know I have been checking this site out the last few days and noticed the flames really getting hot and heavy and then you guys disappointed me with this section and all the thoughtful posts. Thanks owillis.
posted by the_0ne at 7:02 AM on March 11, 2001

Actually, raysmj, that little blue county mired in central Texas is Robertson, not Travis, the county in which Austin is. I'm not sure why Robertson went blue. Travis was a very slim plurality for Bush -- Austin has traditionally been a rather liberal city. Nader took 10% of the Travis County vote.

Full results for Travis County are here. FWIW, I was one of the 9 Harry Browne voters in Precinct 260.
posted by jammer at 9:35 AM on March 11, 2001

Excellent! What we see in *this* map is a country so bored/confused/equivocal that most votes cancelled each other out. A way different story than the red v. blue map "shows". Disraeli: "There are lies, damned lies, and statistics."
posted by Twang at 11:04 AM on March 11, 2001

Nitpicking a bit, but a very slim plurality voted for Gore, not a majority.

... and checking the last half-century's presidential elections, it seems that >60% presidential election margins in one state or another are nothing if not common. In almost every election, both candidates have won states with >60% of the vote. The only exceptions have been the elections that turned out to be a landslide for one candidate, and where there was no significant third-party candidate.
posted by drothgery at 2:16 PM on March 11, 2001

Just an observation of something the cite for which I can't quite recall, but the 2000 election was unprecedented in its polarization. In the post-war elections, there's often been observed that each state has a "natural" equilibrium, and a national plus or minus factor applies for the candidates more or less consistently. In other words, New York has a "natural" 10 point advantage for Democrats, and Idaho a "natural" 15 point advantage for Republicans. When there's a popular Republican (say, Reagan in '84), you might see 12 points added in the Republican direction ... so Idaho goes by 27 points to Reagan, and New York goes by 2 points to Reagan.

What happened in 2000 was that many usually Democratic states went for Gore by historically high Democratic margins: he won by significantly more than Clinton did in 92, and by margins approaching those won by Johnson in 64. Many usually Republican states went for Bush by historically high Republican margins, comparable or exceeding Reagan's in 84 and Nixon's in 72. It suggests that really is a sea-change in the electorate and makes the implied message of the Red-Blue-Purple design a little misleading.
posted by MattD at 2:32 PM on March 11, 2001

Eh. I'd suggest that the notion that each state has a 'natural' equilibrium is silly. Shifting demographics can change a state's political landscape as much or more than a popular (or unpopular) candidate. New York was competitive enough for Reagan to win twice and Bush the Elder once, but today no Republican presidential candidate has a real shot at winning New York and in 2008 who knows?

2000 shows a few counterpoints to the 'increasingly polarized electorate' theory as well. Gore also won some historically Democratic states by exceedingly narrow margins -- Minnesota, Oregon, Wisconsin, and Iowa come to mind -- and lost West Virginia. Bush won some historically Republican states by exceedingly narrow margins -- Florida and New Hampshire come to mind.

posted by drothgery at 5:19 PM on March 11, 2001

not to unnecessarily blame nader voters again, but historically democratic states also had a very large crossover to ralph nader. in the mock election in my (oregon) high school, he won by 20%. he got like 7% of the vote in oregon. so it's not like we didn't support the liberal cause in general, it's just that, well, we wanted someone more liberal.
posted by pikachulolita at 11:28 PM on March 11, 2001

My take on Nader voters is that if Nader wasn't running, one third wouldn't vote, one third would support some other third-party candidate, and one-third wouldn't vote.

Which is to say that pikachulolita can expect to see a lot of Bush ads in 2004.
posted by drothgery at 7:07 AM on March 12, 2001

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