Visualising the 2015 UK Election

The recent UK election introduced many opportunities for visualisation and interaction. Prior to the election, these assets helped voters to decide which party to vote for, showed opinion polls, and compared current trends with historical election results. Post election, results were visualised in maps and charts.

What Did the Opinion Polls Say About Your Seat?


Creator: The Guardian
Source: National polls, sub-UK data, constituency polling, historical context.
Method: Unknown

This asset shows the projected outcome and five sets of maps comparing seats as they were from the 2010 election, and the poll projections for 2015. Seats that were projected to change hands are highlighted.

UK 2015 general election results in full


Creator: The Guardian
Source: Election results
Method: Unknown

This asset shows a UK map with constituencies identified. The map can be filtered to show details like winning party, voter turnout, and gain/loss. A data table below the map provides access to the numbers.

As the volume of election visualisations began picking up traction on social media, a debate began about the cartographic choices made. When a geographically accurate map is used, larger constituencies dominate, while smaller constituencies are nearly indistinguishable. The resulting visual distortion leads the viewer to read the outcome incorrectly, or, at least, to a downplay certain key points.

Much of the discussion centred on the use of cartograms as an alternative to the geographic map. Cartograms substitute land area for another specific variable like population or Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Often, cartograms are used to show some aspect of human geography as opposed to physical geography — in this case, constituencies. With cartograms, the map is distorted so that this alternate variable can be shown. Hexagonal cartograms, most notably used during the 2015 election by the BBC in a giant map on the floor of Television Centre plaza, and also in Election 2015 results mapped (The Telegraph) proved a popular choice. They show each constituency at the same size so that they have equal weighting when reading the graphic. Also, the hexagons tessellate, producing an aesthetically pleasing image.

Oxford geographer Benjamin Hennig placed geographic, cartogram and population maps together to demonstrate the striking differences between the three styles, most noticeable when analyzing the Liberal party’s results. A lot of Labour support is in urban areas in London and the North of England — this is not easy to identify on a geographic map. During the election, much of the conversation, particularly in the media, centred around the remarkable gains made by the Scottish National Party. Though when this subject is analysed this way, the impact is, visually, at least, more minimal.


British Parliament Interactive Timeline


Creator: The Economist
Source: Unknown
Method: Unknown

This timeline shows parliamentary seats by party throughout history, going as far back as the 1868 general election. With each breakdown — demonstrated by party colour, of course, as with the maps — some general information is provided about the election including the date, voter turnout, monarch and prime minister.

Elections and Markets


Creator: The Economist
Source: Thomson Reuters
Method: Unknown

This asset explores the stark difference in economic impact of UK elections by winning party,  showing the FTSE 100 on days before/after elections since 1987.

Square Pegs, Round Hole


Creator: The Economist
Source: Unknown
Method: Unknown

Here, we have an explanation of disproportional representation in the UK parliamentary system where the number of votes vs. the number of seats is shown for each election since 1997.

Election 2015: What are the parties offering you?


Creator: The Guardian
Source: Party Manifesto documents
Method: Unknown

In can be a challenge to identify which party is most aligned with our own interests, and how to wisely cast our vote — especially for young people. Thankfully, The Guardian has undecided voters covered here by giving us a personalised look through each party’s policies.  The user defines their demographics (stage of life, living arrangements, children, transportation, interests) and policies of interest to them are highlighted, along with further reading on the subject.

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