A distaste for reality

Media Matters whines about an accurate picture:

Cal Thomas used misleading county-by-county map to declare “an enormous sea of red”

In his November 8 column, nationally syndicated columnist Cal Thomas joined the roster of those heralding a county-by-county map of the November 2 presidential election results that deceptively overstates President George W. Bush’s margin of victory over Senator John Kerry. Thomas stated that the county-by-county map “showed an enormous sea of red (Bush counties) with only tiny patches of blue (Kerry counties) in the usual places where elites and other condescending liberals reside.” Thomas went on to claim: “If you study this map, you have to conclude that America is not becoming more divided; it is slowly, but perceptively [sic: perceptibly], becoming more conservative and Republican.”

The county-by-county map is misleading, as Media Matters for America has noted (when Newsweek featured the map and when conservative commentators touted it). Princeton University professor Robert J. Vanderbei created a map that more accurately depicts voter preference in the 2004 presidential election. Rather than simply representing a county’s voter preference with red (Republican) or blue (Democrat), Vanderbei’s map takes into account the percentage of the Democratic and Republican vote in each county, using shades of purple to represent closely contested counties.

In addition, while the overwhelming majority of U.S. counties voted Republican, those counties that voted Democratic are generally more densely populated. As such, the county-by-county map, which is based on geography rather than population, visually overstates the Republican share of the vote. University of Michigan professors Cosma Shalizi and Mark Newman and University of Michigan graduate student Michael Gastner created a version of the red-and-blue county-by-county map that is based on population density rather than geographic size. They also created a county-by-county version of Vanderbrei’s red, blue and purple map that takes into account population density as well as the degree to which a county’s vote was split between Bush and Kerry.

David Brock sure has some pea-sized brains at his disposal. First, Cal Thomas is an editorial columnist. He used an image that was 100 percent accurate to demonstrate a valid point, that support for George Bush is much more widespread than it was for Kerry. Given that I have NEVER seen a single map where the states are colored in gradients according to the percentages supporting the winning candidate, why on Earth should anyone be expected a county-by-county map to be colored any differently? Those state-by-state maps are equally “misleading” and yet Media Matters has never seen fit to complain about them.

It’s clear that Media Matters simply doesn’t like the implications of how bad the county map looks for the Democratic party, so they demand a different graphic. Very objective, gentlemen, very objective indeed.