Ten ways to visualize elections data
Top tips for bringing your election coverage to life with Flourish
When it comes to elections, beyond just good traditional journalism, readers have also come to expect good visual reporting. But these kinds of projects can take up large amounts of time and lots of resources. So here at Flourish we’ve created a package which helps you easily add polished, high-quality visualizations to any type of election coverage.
1. Parliament chart
The first question any newsroom has to answer is Who won? While there are different ways to provide this information, one of the most straightforward is to use a parliament chart.
The example above shows the results from the 2014 EU Parliamentary Elections, but there’s also a blank tab for the 2019 results, as those elections haven’t happened yet. If you wanted to use this chart for your own EU coverage, all you’d have to do is embed the visualization, and then update the data as individual countries begin reporting results. (But there’s more about updating graphics on election night below.)
2. Election results chart
Another way to answer the question Who won? is to use an Election results chart. The great thing about this visualization is that, unlike the Parliament chart, it allows you to add results by subcategory, which you can toggle between using the dropdown menu.
In this specific example, you can see the results for the whole of the European Parliament, as well as each of the individual EU countries. But the dropdown is a great way to slice the results by any number of interesting factors – things like state, constituency, gender, age or race.
Like the Parliament chart, the Election results chart also lets you to add data for multiple election years. So if you wanted to add the 2019 results in, all you’d have to do is copy the data from the “Current data” table to the “Historic data” table, and then replace the old data on the “Current data” table with the new data.
3. Projection map
Another way to visually inform your readers about the results of the election is to display them geographically. Instead of just who won, you’ll also be telling your readers where they won, adding another level of complexity to their understanding. The current map shows results from 2014, but all you have to do is go to the data table and change the name of the party group in each country and the map will redraw.
To learn more about our Projection map template and how it works, check out this blog post.
Some of the most important of pre- and post-election reporting involves explaining the idiosyncracies of different electoral systems. Creating graphics is often the simplest way to do that explanation, and Flourish has a lot of templates which can help.
To take an example from the European Parliament: One the most confusing things about the EU – and one of the most difficult things to explain to readers – is how each of the national parties fit into each of the larger, EU-wide political party groups. In anticipation of that difficulty, we’ve made a hierarchy chart showing every national party and their corresponding grouping. Someone using this visualization could make a story to walk readers through where certain parties fall in the overall picture, leave it as a standalone graphic to let them explore the party structure themselves, or edit it to only include the parties from certain countries.
5. Column chart
In the aftermath of the election, readers don’t just want to know who won – or what happened – but how it happened, what it happened, and in what context. Flourish’s more basic templates are an easy way to provide readers with analysis visually and quickly. In this example we’ve used a column chart that offers some more historical context to the election by showing the shift in geographic dominance of the EU from Northern and Western Europe to Southern and Eastern Europe. But you can easily copy this example, upload your own data, and make it into a line chart, an area chart or a pie chart.
6. Bar chart race
Bar chart races are kind of like bar charts – but much more fun. This example shows the number of delegates won by the top four finishers in the 2016 Republican primary, but you can use this type of chart to visualize any sort of sum that tend to grow and accumulate over time.
To learn more about our new bar chart race template, check out this blog post.
7. Horserace chart
Like the bar chart race, the horserace is like a line chart — but much more fun. It’s particularly good for visualizing the polling of volatile races because the animation gives you an almost physical sense of the contest — the peaks, the troughs, the changes in position. On the day after the election, in a piece breaking down how a certain race turned out, a horse race chart can also provide a bit of recall, reminding readers of the narrative turns they may have forgot.
At the end of the day, giving readers a simple way to explore election data themselves can be an effective form of journalism. With our survey template you can import race outcomes and readers can sort, color, filter and interrogate the data with minimal interference from you. This example shows every member in the 116th US Congress.
Alternatively, use our table template to build a searchable database of representatives.
And finally, use our Cards template to display that information you know everyone needs, but you’re not quite sure how to show.
To learn more about Cards, check out this blog post.
Updating Flourish visualizations on election night
One of the best things about using Flourish to cover an election is that it allows you to update visualizations in real time. There are two different ways to do this:
- Update the data in Flourish and republish your charts
- Use our upcoming API for live data
The first option is to just use our built-in publishing system. First, create a chart, publish it on Flourish, and embed it in your article or on your liveblog. Then, as the results come in, you can update the data in Flourish and hit “Republish”. Every time you do this your embed will automatically be updated with the new data.
The second option requires having a developer who can connect a Flourish visualization to a live data source using the soon-to-be-released Flourish API. Interested in using our API? Send us an email at email@example.com to discuss access and pricing.
If there’s a type of visualization missing from this list that you think would be really useful to have in Flourish, we’d love to hear about it! Just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org