Art, Maps, Portfolio

Weaponized Counties – 2016 US Election Sculpture

This pair of sculptures divides US counties into two sets: those in which Donald Trump won a majority of the 2016 US presidential election votes and those in which Hillary Clinton won a majority. Clinton assembled powerful urban centers to build her political base, with solid margins in most dense cities. Donald Trump, on the other hand, amassed a vast rural expanse of the less populated counties in the country. These counties were weaponized in the fight for the presidency, and this narrative of urban vs rural is visualized here in sharp, violent imagery, meant to evoke futuristic weapons turned on each other.

The counties are represented as their geographic shapes, with a thickness representing the number of votes the majority candidate received in each county. Counties are arranged along an x-axis from left to right, symbolizing the percentage of the county that voted for the left (Clinton) vs the right (Trump). The counties are rotated at random, melding with one another into a cutting, dangerous form. By comparing this visualization technique across both candidates we can see a stark difference in the makeup of the electorate.

Clinton Majority Counties

Trump Majority Counties

Annotated Versions

Here are some annotated versions that call out a few specific counties to explain how the forms relate to the underlying county-level election data.

The Clinton-majority counties are laid out with Clinton landslide counties to the left and equal split counties to the right (the idea being you move from left to right across the political spectrum). Clinton won many of the urban counties, and since the height of a county in the sculpture represents the number of votes for the majority candidate, you end up with some thick forms representing lots of votes in a relatively small number of counties.

The Trump-majority counties are laid out with the Trump landslide counties to the right, and equal split counties to the left (again where left and right equate to political left and right). Trump won many more counties than Clinton did, but those counties were predominantly rural without large numbers of votes, so we end up with a large collection of many thin counties.

And a side by side shot to compare:

Similar to the prior sculpture, Bridged Counties, this is so far a purely digital rendering. Physically manufacturing these forms is something I’m struggling to figure out, so if you have thoughts please reach out.