Friday, November 19, 2004

Mappy Happy

'He who is not with me is against me...'
Following the US election, a number of people were commenting on the state level voting patterns, showing maps of the US states coloured a solid red and blue. It led to a few (generally tongue in cheek) suggestions that the west coast and NE should secede to Canada, and leave the bible belt to its own devices.
'When I was a child, I thought as a child...'
While a lot of this discussion was light hearted, and not intended to be taken seriously, it did display the level of simplistic black and white (red and blue?) thinking which has been put about recently.

Robert Winston, in his excellent series on the Human Body, pointed out that it is children who tend to view things in this manner; only when we achieve puberty do we start to appreciate that 'straightforward' issues may have more subtle aspects to them. (In the spirit of that observation, I must say that it's presenting a sharper edge to the case than is justified. Some children are quite capable of thinking through difficult moral issues. On the other hand, some of us never do manage it.)
'Now I am man, I think as a man...'
Back to those maps. You know what they say about lies, damn lies, and statistics? David Brin pointed out that a closer look at the voting spread could be found here.

It takes population density into account, breaks down the results by county, and displays the scale of the votes in varying shades of red and blue.

The result shows three things:
  • The actual mix of votes is a lot more evenly distributed: even 'devout' Bush (or, for that matter, Kerry) country is nowhere near pure red (or blue).
  • If there is any cut in the voting pattern, it is more a case of urban and country dwellers.
  • Seceding to Canada isn't a solution.
This made me reflect that it is the 'bible belters' who are usually depicted as having a one-eyed, simplistic world view. I thought it ironic that most of these maps were presented by people bewailing the Bush victory.

So, ladies and gentlemen of the 'back paddock', I suggest we all discover our contrast buttons, and learn to think in shades of grey.

...or purple!


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