Money, Politics and Elections

The visualization, How is the vote being influenced?, was developed using data prepared for a Data Visualization class at Stanford, and Tableau, which employs a behind the scenes relational joining algorithm making it really to explore multi-dimensional data.

The data consists of Federal Election Commission filings, but only recent years were projected to emphasize more recent trends, and the impact of presidential election years.  The exploratory process aimed to assess the influence of campaign contributions on elections.   The figure clearly shows that the amount of individual committee transactions amount to enormous sums, and that the these are more excessive in the geographic areas that you’d expect: the DC area, CA, NY, TX, and IL.  It suggests that these trends span across offices, and comparing 2011 to 2012, that they increase in frequency during election years.

What this figure does not show is that the contributions to other parties, such as the Green Party, were relatively insignificant,  so much so that they could not even be discerned by the human eye relative to the two major players in US politics.   Also, one unexpected finding we stumbled upon when zoning in on NY’s  Kirsten Gillibrand was that contributions for Senate seats are far more geographically distributed than initially expected.   That is, a senate seat in CA or NY will return a set of zipcodes that don’t appear altogether that different. Why does a super PAC in CA care about who wins local elections in NYC? I’m not sure, but what this suggest to me is that that congressional seats are subject to financial influences that may not directly serve the interests of the public official’s voting constituency.

Variables were available to further examine the interest groups or political affiliations of committees.  However in many cases the `null’ type was most represented, and the categories were not immediately useful.

This and other data repositories pointed to by the class wiki can be found here and here.