Post-Election Maps for the 2012 Presidential Election

Caitlin Dempsey


Now that the election has been definitively declared for President Barack Obama (although the electoral votes for Florida are still being decided), it’s time to look at post-election maps and analysis.  

The presidential election was a close race this year with Obama leading with 60,794,790 popular votes (50.4%) to Romney’s 57,901,194 votes (48%).  As the outstanding absentee and provisional ballots are counted and verified, those numbers will change.  

The electoral breakdown curently stands at 303 for Obama and 206 for Romney with Florida’s 29 electoral votes not yet allocated due to the close race in that state.

Maps that analyze elections results at the county level provide better insight into where the most intense support for each candidate lies.  Most states have a “winner takes all” when it comes to electoral votes where the candidate with the highest popular vote gets all the electoral votes.  

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With over 3,000 counties in the United States (known as parishes in Louisiana and boroughs in Alaska), mapping at this level produces a better picture of the geopolitical landscape of the U.S.

Access the 2012 Presidential Election Results by County

If you’re looking for the raw 2012 election data, the Guardian has county level data for the 2012 presidential election, available as an Excel spreadsheet or via Google Fusion Tables.

2012 Election Results Maps of the 2012 Presidential Election

Margin of votes map

Max Rush at the Chicago Sun Times broke down the margins by county for the 48 lower states (Alaska and Hawaii are not included).  His map took a look at the margin of votes for each candidate (that is, how many more votes the leading candidate had than his opponent within each county).  

The map helps depict the geopolitical landscape of the United States and shows where support for President Obama was the strongest.  

The map uses absolute numbers, so of course, areas with higher populations will stand out more than rural populations.  Looking at the election margins map, it becomes immediately obvious that Obama has the most support in urban areas as compared to the more rural counties.  

Major cities along the West Coast, Chicago, and the metropolitan areas of the East coast showed the highest support for Obama.  

Maricopa County was the county with the largest margin of victory for Mitt Romney.  Not surprisingly, Utah seems to be the only state where all counties went to Romney.

Wyoming follows as a close second in widespread support for Romney with only Teton County leaning Democratic.

Election map showing margin of votes by county for the 2012 Presidential Election.
Election map showing margin of votes by county for the 2012 Presidential Election. Map by Max Rust for the Chicago Sun Times. Click on map for larger image or download a PDF of the map.

Map of the size of election lead for the 2012 presidential election in the United States

The NY Times also produced a top down map that looked at the size of the leads.  Click on the “Size of Lead” map on the NY Times Presidential Elections map page to access the map.  

This map used graduated symbols to denote the size of the lead.  Data for Hawaii is included but data for Alaska is missing.

 Hover over each circle for a popup for the breakdown in number of votes and percentage for the candidates.  Click on a state to zoom to that level.

Size of lead post-election map for the 2012 Presidential Election from the NY Times.
Size of lead post-election map for the 2012 Presidential Election from the NY Times.

Shift election map of the United States

The map from the NY Times that I found particularly interesting is the Shift from 2008 map (also available from the same page).  

The map symbolizes the shifting trends between Democratic and Republican voters since the previous presidential election.  The map symbolizes with arrows (red for Republican and blue for Democratic) the percentage shift in votes between 2008 and 2012.  

Change in share of votes between the Democratic and Republican candidates from 2008 to 2012.
Change in share of votes between the Democratic and Republican candidates from 2008 to 2012. Source: NY Times.

The rotation (blue arrows point left and red arrows point right) and length of each arrow symbolizes the proportional shift in votes since 2008.

For example, St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana experienced a 10% gain in Democratic votes (and a 10% loss in Republican votes since 2008) and is symbolized by a long blue arrow.

The shift map is particularly interesting in that it shows shifts counter to the overall win for each state.  For example, almost the entire West Coast shows a shift towards an increase in Republican votes even though Washington, Oregon, and California all went for Obama.  Conversely, the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia show a pattern of increasingly Democratic votes despite those three states voting for Romney.

For a dynamic shift map, see the NY Times page on “How Obama Won Re-election” which has a 2008 and 2012 dynamic shift map which evokes the popular Wind Map by Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg.  Toggle back and forth between 2008 and 2012 to see the shifting tide from Democratic to Republican.

Read next: Campaign 2000 – A Cartographic Perspective

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About the author
Caitlin Dempsey
Caitlin Dempsey is the editor of Geography Realm and holds a master's degree in Geography from UCLA as well as a Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS) from SJSU.