Visualising Clinton v Obama

By: on May 8, 2008 has been tracking the “head-to-head” polls for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, to study the question of which of them stands the best chance of defeating John McCain in November. Rather than plot the data on a map, I thought that a scattergram was a more useful tool with which to understand this data, with Clinton’s margin of defeat/victory on the horizonal axis and Obama’s on the vertical. The area of each state reflects the number of votes in the Electoral College that state carries.

Clinton’s biggest asset here is Florida and Ohio, two states with 47 electoral votes between them which Obama polls as marginally losing but she comfortably wins. She’s also predicted to scrape Missouri’s ten electoral votes which are definitely out of reach for Obama, and there seems no doubt that she’ll win West Virginia (5 EVs) while Obama won’t – 62 EVs total. Her polled victory in Pennsylvania (21 EVs) is also by a much more comfortable margin – it’s very hard to see a Democrat losing PA and taking the country.

By comparison Obama only has three states in his corner; they only add up to 36 EVs, and none of them are comfortable wins for him, though they are all some way from Clinton’s reach. However, Obama has a lot of red states within reach; New Mexico, Nebraska, and South Carolina are the closest, but he can put up a good fight for Texas’s 34 electoral votes, which will be expensive for the Republicans to defend – and Obama will likely have a large financial advantage over them.

Indiana, meanwhile, is anyone’s.

Though either is more likely to win than lose, this chart predicts a much more comfortable victory for Clinton than for Obama. However, head-to-head polling doesn’t tell you everything: a candidate is chosen for their money-raising and get-out-the-vote capacity as well as for polling well. Oh, and I suppose some superdelegates might even care how well they’ll do the job.

The program is written in Python using Cairo, which is how I produce all my visualisations these days. The hardest part again was placing the labels for the states so that they don’t obscure each other.



  1. Nice analysis… except there’s no such state as “New England”. NE stands for Nebraska 😉

  2. Paul Crowley says:

    OOps! Fixed, thanks!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>