In the battle between FiveThirtyEight.com and NYT’s Upshot, we are the winners.
There is a great battle taking place. I’m not talking about the race for President. I’m talking about the battle over which website is best at using election-oriented explanatory graphics (or “data journalism”)–NYTimes.com’s Upshot or ESPN.com’s FiveThirtyEight.com?*
Currently, users of both sites are winning because both sites are using Edward Tufte-inspired methods of displaying real-time trends and variations. (Tufte is a Yale professor emeritus who thinks PowerPoint is evil and passionately dislikes the cartoon illustrations with numbers that are popularly called infographics.)
Here’s an example of a Tufteian influenced display of data found on 538. When one typically sees a Red and Blue map of the U.S. that shows which candidate is leading in each state, the map adheres to a geographic display.
However, because each state, thanks to the Electoral College, has a say in the election based primarily on its population, that key data point is ignored when the map is displayed geographically. A more insightful way to display a Red and Blue map is this way, as demonstrated on FiveThirtyEight.com.
Another impressive use of data journalism is the way in which Upshot displays the ever-changing “paths to victory” that each candidate has to victory. (below)
This is perhaps the most revealing display of the daunting challenge Trump faces that I’ve seen. Using the current assumptions from Upshot’s forecasting model applied to current data, Clinton has 998 paths (or 97% of the ways) while Trump has only 24 paths (or 2.3%).
*There’s a lot of history between Nate Silver (founder of fivethirtyeight.com) and the New York Times. I’ve never had much interest in such back-stories. However, competition is a good thing.