NP: Four years ago, Channel One News, the weekday news program for middle and high school kids featured a dynamic area cartogram as a way of making the point that some states have much more electoral weight than others. In that broadcast, the map of the United States, featuring the familiar red and blue states indicating presidential election results, became animated. States with smaller populations squeezed into tiny shapes, while states with large populations expanded. At the time, we didn't know this kind of map was called an area cartogram; we called it a "squishy map." It does a nice job of making this case: some states matter more than others when it comes to US presidential elections.
Seeing the map on Channel One also launched me into work that continues with my dissertation. What kind of sense do kids make from complex representations like an area cartogram? In the Channel One broadcast in 2008, the map was presented as part of a sensible lesson about "electoral weight." With Vanderbilt professors Rogers Hall and Kevin Leander, we wondered if the map made sense to kids and if the argument was strengthened by the map.
Four years later, I'm still working on those questions and others like them. In the mean time, here's another awesome area cartogram. In this case, NPR's "It's All Politics" blogger Adam Cole makes an argument about the advertisement spending of superPACs and other outside groups. Which states matter to these groups? And how much do they spend per voter on these ads? The squishy maps tell the story. Cole has a great video here as well--it's whimsical and informative. Finally, another move by Cole in these maps is the scaling of elections at the level of the state by popular vote. This means that states that are more contested turn purple (half blue and half red) rather than the color of the winning candidate from the last election.
Via Nathan Phillips