Art, Maps, Portfolio

Bridged Counties – 2016 US Election Sculpture

This sculpture takes the US counties and plots them left to right based on how polarized the votes were for one candidate or another in the 2016 US presidential election. Clinton landslide counties to the left, Trump landslide counties to the right. Then the counties are stacked one on the other to build up each candidate’s most polarized base. The height of each county is the # of votes for the candidate that won the majority of the county. These are the safe divided pillars on which each candidate builds their campaign. The two pillars meet in the middle, where the counties had an approximately equal split between the two parties.

Since the 2016 US presidential election I’ve been fascinated by the divides between parties, particularly the urban/rural divide. Traditional election result maps that color states or counties red or blue paint a misleading picture by giving a lot of visual weight to incredibly sparsely populated rural areas. The sea of red rural counties makes it look like the US is overwhelmingly Republican, which is true if you’re counting by land mass alone. In reality, however, the voting population is fairly evenly split between the two parties if you count the actual votes. But votes for the Democratic party are highly concentrated in population dense urban counties, which leads to traditional maps presenting a confusing picture.

If we look closer at the base of Clinton’s landslide counties we see a number of geographically small but powerful counties (in terms of votes, mapped to height). That’s DC sitting so far out to the left, which went 93% for Clinton. And Los Angeles County, which accounted for 1.9 million Clinton votes, is one of the thick ones (a few counties below is Cook County, IL, accounting for 1.5 million votes).

That can be contrasted with Trump’s landslide counties, which are much larger geographically, but each one is much less populated (therefore thinner). When ordered in this way it takes 118 Clinton-won counties to get to 5 million Democratic votes, contrasted with 762 Trump landslide counties to add up to 5 million GOP votes.

To help read the sculpture I’ve added annotations to call out a few select counties. If you start at the bottom left you’re looking at Clinton landslide counties, then moving toward the center you get to counties that split equally between Clinton and Trump, then moving toward the right you get Trump landslide counties.

At the moment this is purely a digital rendering. Due to the complexity of the structure, I’m struggling to figure out how to turn it into a physical reality. If you have any thoughts, please reach out.


One thought on “Bridged Counties – 2016 US Election Sculpture

  1. Pingback: Weaponized Counties – 2016 US Election Sculpture | Doug McCune

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