Illness as indicator

Local health outcomes predict Trumpward swings

…on November 15th Patrick Ruffini, a well-known pollster, offered a “challenge for data nerds” on Twitter: “Find the variable that can beat % of non-college whites in the electorate as a predictor of county swing to Trump.” With no shortage of nerds, The Economist has taken Mr Ruffini up on his challenge. Although we could not find a single factor whose explanatory power was greater than that of non-college whites, we did identify a group of them that did so collectively: an index of public-health statistics.

Read more on Economist.com

I intend to post the underlying code for this to Github in a few weeks.

A country divided by counties

America’s presidential election over time and space

As our map of America’s voting patterns on a county-by-county basis going back to 1952 makes clear, Mr Trump’s gains were concentrated in rural areas across the northern United States. Republicans have long held the edge in America’s wide-open spaces, but never has the gap been this profound: a whopping 80% of voters who have over one square mile (2.6 square km) of land to enjoy to themselves backed Mr Trump. As the scatter plot below demonstrates, as counties become increasingly densely populated, fewer and fewer vote Republican. American politics appear to be realigning along a cleavage between inward-looking countryfolk and urban globalists. Mr Trump hails from the latter group, but his message resounded with the former.

Read more and check out the interactive map on Economist.com

Model behaviour

In America, who votes may matter more than how they vote

ON A crisp autumn afternoon, armed with “I’m with her” balloons, a boombox and a clipboard, Eli Clark-Davis sets out dancing down the street with his friends to get out the Democratic vote in Fishtown, a gentrifying neighbourhood in Philadelphia. The group’s mission is to knock on as many doors as possible, reminding registered voters of whom they should back, when election day falls and where to cast their ballots. They ask potential supporters to sign an “I commit to vote for Hillary” slip, which the campaign hopes will adorn refrigerator doors. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has set up 300 of these “staging posts” across the Pennsylvania, from which armies of volunteers set forth to mobilise her party’s base. On the campaign’s penultimate weekend, they knocked on 500,000 doors—roughly one-tenth of the households in the whole of the Keystone State.

Read the full article on Economist.com

Defining realignment

The anger and fickleness of voters are forcing change. But in which direction?

BIG structural changes to political parties happen only once in a generation. Academics reckon that in 219 years America has seen just six different party systems, each attracting a distinct coalition of voters. Donald Trump’s idea of turning the Republican Party, long the ally of big business, into a “workers’ party” may yet force a seventh. To track the trend, The Economist has melted down the American electorate into their policy choices and priorities alone, freeing them from party labels to see what kind of winning policy platforms might emerge in future.

Read more on Economist.com

Hoping that demography is not destiny

Britain’s EU referendum

ON JUNE 23rd Britons will head to the polls to answer a simple question they have not been asked since 1975: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” If the answer is “remain”, Britain will continue to integrate with the EU’s 27 other countries. If it chooses to “leave”, the Kingdom may split apart and begin to drift gently into mid-Atlantic obscurity.

“Remain” has led in the polls for almost the entirety of the campaign. In early June the “leave” side surged, and briefly appeared to have taken a decisive lead. But the tragic murder on June 16th of Jo Cox, a pro-EU member of Parliament, may have helped swing the polls again in recent days. On the surface, this has restored a narrow edge for “remain”. However, the share of people saying they intend to vote for “remain” has not actually increased. Instead, a sliver of the electorate has simply switched from “leave” to “don’t know”. With just one or two percentage points splitting the two sides, the outcome will depend largely on the 10-15% of voters who say they are still undecided.

Read the full article on Economist.com