Data Visualisation Week 1: Learning from the Pros: Poll Data Journalism

Visualising polling data is a particularly relevant example given we are less than 100 days away from a general election and one that is a) surrounded by uncertainty around party dynamics b) one of the first in the UK that can draw on more widely practiced and sophisticated data analysis and design techniques.

The election will provide an intriguing backdrop, and no doubt many many examples, for this course. To help me think a bit more about this challenge I had a quick looks around for some relevant ideas demonstrating how political data is being represented to help be think through design approaches and possible techniques.

This data blast from the May2015 election blog by the New Statesman uses both tabulated data and coloured circles to display different aspects of data. They use circles and colours like we were asked to but don’t use size to represent difference, all circles being the same. They don’t really show a trend either. Their data is more a snapshot of the current position. The only trend related information is the number in brackets below the main number indicating the change from the previous snapshot.

Source: May2015

YouGov are using a line chart for their polling. They again use colour to differentiate the parties and their lines does show trends over the past 3 months. This makes it easy to see both the current picture, which is also clearly labelled, and change over time. They only cover 5 parties and don’t have a line for others.

Source: YouGov

The BBC Poll of Polls our challenge data was taken from also uses a line chart but combines it with a table that uses symbols to indicate trend movements. This visualisation also adds interactivity something missing from other articles. A time slider gives the user control over the point in time to display the tabulated data for.

Source: BBC

The Telegraph Poll Tracker is similar though they combine their line chart with a pie chart. The consensus for poll trackers (which show trends) as opposed to polling snapshots seems to be line charts though they differentiate themselves by their choice of secondary visualisation.

Source: The Telegraph

Another type of visualisation features in a second article from the May2015 election blog looking at the implications of seat polling in Scotland. This visualisation uses tabulated data, a bar chart and a coloured map to show the projected election results and parliamentary representation. Here the visualisation clear provides a clearer understanding of the outcome and a more engaging narrative than the tabulated data making it easy to see how close Labour and the Conservatives are to being the largest party and the potential significance of the SNP.

Source: May2015

No doubt there will be many more examples to learn from over the coming weeks and will see how the look of the final results differs between 2010 and 2015. This time around I’ll be as interested in the representation as much as the outcome.

Source: BBC


Code:
Week 1 Gist on Github
DataViz Github Repository


Featured Visualisation Image Credit:
The Data Centric Universe by Jan Willem Tulp.
Source: Visualizing.org (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)


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