Digging into some electoral data

The 2017 election is hardly interesting, from a data perspective. We all know the map will be mostly blue with some red blobs and a yellow top. Like Maggie Simpson, as the Radio Times pointed out…

It’s often the same with research and data we use for business. Research teams carefully construct management reports each month but when little changes, not much attention is paid. Considering how much we paid for the data, or how much is traded on it, that feels like a missed opportunity.

There are two ways data visualisation can bring new life to old data. Both exploit human nature - or behavioural economics as the well-paid like to call it - to get the message across better.

Below is a new map we’ve made showing 2015 election voting patterns by region. Concentrations of colour show areas where parties enjoy greater popularity, but show it much more fluidly than the block-like constituency map. London shows an urban core of Labour with a belt of suburban blue, but with Conservative voting pushing in from the west along the Thames corridor, and UKIP pushing in from the east. Liberal voting comes across as a gold crescent sweeping down from Wood Green in the north to Kingston in the south west. Rural areas show a thin but clear dominance of blue, while towns are clusters of competition, sometimes with a splash of colour like yellow in Cambridge or green in Brighton.

The SNP’s dominance in Scotland is just as stark as the all-yellow classic map, with little else visible but a smattering of blue in the countryside. However, the bar chart of vote shares shown on the map tell a different story: Labour was the clear second place party in 2015, but it seems their vote is predominantly urban where the SNP overwhelmed it. The Tories relative strength outside the towns may let them back in this time around, but it will be harder for Labour.

Why does this map get people to engage with the data more than a classic one? It’s unusual and aesthetically pleasing, so it catches our attention. It also feels more personal - you can zoom into where you like and instead of seeing one colour, you see the full texture and diversity of the electorate. The map also has Brexit vote shares, so click on the image to load the interactive map and have a play.


Our second use of election data is more functional. The election book contains vote details by constituency, overlaid with demographics, indicators of wealth and Brexit voting. Click on the image and enter username: culture password: insight to explore.

election book

Instead of maps we have interactive charts, such as the one which allows you to compare constituencies by two different measures. Compare unemployment rate to Conservative vote share, and you’ll see why it is still their electoral achilles heel. The apparent pattern between Conservative and UKIP vote shares also hints at why, most-Brexit, the Tories have surged ahead in the polls by winning back those who strayed to UKIP last time.

We’ve also calculated the correlations between different voting patterns and wider factors. Those in real which enjoy a higher house price, or better house price growth are far more likely to have voted to remain in the UK (and vice versa). Conversely, the Brexiters were far more likely to be in areas with a greater proportion of retired voters and better levels of voter registration. Finally, there’s a page where you can compare all these measures for your own constituency: it appears to show that however free you think your voting choice is, it’s heavily directed by the circumstances of the area around you.

This one works because it encourages discovery. The PowerPoint equivalent would have been over 1,000 slides, full of carefully crafted charts that only the author will ever see. We love to be curious and look for things that pique our interest.

Needless to say, we would love to have a chat about doing things like this for your data so don’t hesitate to get in touch!