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Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Mapping and Elections: Part 1

Recently, Australia concluded its general election. Likewise for any other country, any election is a turning point in country history and electorate is bombarded with analysis and statistics. In terms of analysis and statistics, we are presented through commentators exchange, numbers popping up on the television, table of results on papers and finally,MAPS. The most obvious use of maps for election purpose is to show the final/exit results of the elections. For the case of Malaysia : STAR (the main English daily) partnered with ESRI to create an interactive online GIS platform in displaying the results:

Sample Section of STAR Interactive Election Map of Malaysia 2013
For the case of Australia, show greater insight on predictions, change of seats and the linkages to greater analytical tools.
Sample Section of ABC Interactive Election Map of Australia 2013

It's plus side, through full results link (refer above), ABC has visualized the changes in boundary demarcation for some electorates (i.e. Melbourne).

However, this post would not be focusing on the obvious application of mapping in elections. We'll be examining Mapping in Election Strategy and Mapping in Addressing Election Issues

Mapping in Election Strategy

          Australian Labor Party using Maps to 'scare' the voters on geographical
basis  if opposition takes control
The above map illustrate a simple, yet powerful mapping technique employed by election strategist to capture attention of potential voters. It hardly require much geographical data (but need more attribute data) to identify the geographical distribution of Liberal National Party Cuts. Through this approach, voters will know up and close of the cuts and how it will impact them directly (refer below). This in turn influence the voters mind (but for this election, GIS didn't give much needed boost for dying Labor Party)
 Examining Liberals's Planned Cuts and Labor's Planned Policies for
Melbourne (3000)
From this tool, we can conclude GIS or mapping in general is quietly being used by election strategists. Since most of world's data has a geographical component, in terms of elections, this would mean understanding geographical distribution of voters and their characteristics. Here are some data would be used by election strategists:

  1. A base map (let say a Google map or traditional GIS map)
  2. Census boundaries for the area
  3. Voter characteristic (e.g. gender, income, age)
  4. Political or economic maps (if needed)
 What the GIS does with these datasets above is it can integrate these geographic information and analyze voters' patterns and behavior. A lot of these datesets above could be sourced in government databases (depending on country's spatial policy) which in turn can be tapped by existing or upcoming politicians. On top of that, election campaigners source other data about the voters and issues through phone calls, sms and emails. In GIS, all these are mapped out and spatial distribution of behavior is displayed in good maps.
Election Strategy
How GIS might be used for election strategy
The above diagram shows the summary of application of GIS in election strategy. In terms of planning, GIS is wonderful resource where to distribute energy, time, money and volunteers to hit the voters. Using the map, politicians know where the target audience are. On top of that, when volunteers hit the streets, with the GPS on mobile devices, campaign managers can track the progress and see what other areas to progress further. If time is on the side of politicians, campaign strategists can use GIS to do predictions and use these data for coming elections.

In Summary, I have discussed two areas where GIS is used for election strategy. One is used to create scare campaign of the opponents and another on how to reach to the voters. Most of us just do not know whether this spatial technology gets applied in elections. The second part of the discussion would be on mapping/GIS and Addressing Election Issues.


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