Decoding U.S. Election Day in 9 Key Charts - Visual Capitalist
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Decoding U.S. Election Day in 9 Key Charts

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After a tumultuous election cycle, the time has come at last for Americans to cast their ballots.

Media coverage has reached a fever pitch, and keeping up with the news cycle can be daunting for anyone. To keep the voting public and interested onlookers informed, we’ve compiled nine key charts that can help in answering key questions that people will have today:

  • Who’ll win the U.S. presidential election?
  • How could swing states flip?
  • When will we know the election results?
  • What are the stakes?
  • What does the rest of the world think?

Let’s start with the biggest—and most challenging—of these topics first.

Who’ll Win the Election?

As the world learned in 2016, answering this question is not as simple as it looks—even when the poll results point to a clear victory.

Chart #1: Biden remains the odds-on favorite

In 2020’s race, the poll results are once again stacked against President Trump. Here’s a look at who’s ahead in aggregated national polls:

National U.S. election aggregated polls

Source: FiveThirtyEight

Although this election cycle has been a wild ride, that volatility isn’t necessarily reflected in the polls. Over the past three months, Joe Biden’s lead in the national polls has not dipped below three percentage points.

Chart #2: Viewing odds through a 2016 lens

That said, after the colossal miscalculation by the media and pollsters in 2016, many people are skeptical of the accuracy of polls. Luckily, there’s a way to look at predictions through a more skeptical lens. As this table from FiveThirtyEight demonstrates, even if the results are as wrong as in 2016, Joe Biden is still predicted to win.

Margin of error in polls 2016

Chart #3: Betting markets also agree

Prediction markets are another way to try to gauge how the election could turn out. Traders on PredictIt are also leaning towards a Biden win on election day. President Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis in early October served as a pivot point in that market.

Prediction markets for the U.S. election

Chart #4: The Sultans of Swing

There are a few swing states which will be hotly contested, with the candidates focusing their final days of campaigning on these.

Pennsylvania has received the most visits from both Trump and Biden since their last debate on October 22nd, with Trump visiting the state seven times and Biden stopping by four times.

Swing states summary

Swing states have had strong early voting turnouts. In fact, the number of early voters in many swing states is already set to surpass the total number of voters they saw in the 2016 election.

While Arizona and Georgia have voted red for the past five elections, early predictions point to these states possibly turning blue in 2020.

When Will We Know the Election Results?

While the result of the presidential election is typically known on the night of the election itself, this year could see delays due to the tight race and the amount of mail-in ballots.

No matter what, state election disputes need to be settled before December 8th, the “safe-harbor deadline”. After this date, states run the risk of having Congress refuse to accept their electoral votes, with Congress also resolving any left over disputes.

Each state’s electors then meet on December 14th in order to elect the president and vice-president. Depending on how that goes, this interactive election timeline by The Guardian looks at a few nightmare scenarios that the U.S. could get caught in.

Chart #5: Visualizing mail-in ballots so far

Mail-in ballots can slow down the election result due to late ballot deadlines and the pre-processing required for them to be counted. Expect to see a correlation between states with high mail-in ballot numbers and how long it takes them to call their result.

Ballot deadlines depend on the state, with some states accepting ballots up until November 23rd as long as they were postmarked by election day.

While some states can start pre-processing ballots before election day, others can’t start until election day itself. Some counties (including some in swing state Pennsylvania) won’t be starting mail-in ballot counting until November 4th due to limited resources.

Why Are the Stakes So High?

Voters from both parties are heavily invested in who wins this election—a trend that’s been on the rise for years, coinciding with increasing amounts of political polarization.

Chart #6: Voter apathy, no more

According to a recent survey by Pew Research Center, 83% of voters say it “really matters” who becomes the next president. In 2000, only 50% felt so strongly about the outcome of the election.

Voter apathy

To be fair, this year is also unique given a global pandemic—and this has certainly weighed heavily on many voters, creating more urgency than normal.

In fact, according to a survey conducted by Gallup in April 2020, 45% of Americans think Coronavirus/disease is the most important issue the country is currently facing.

Chart #7: Voters See COVID as a Top Concern

Research has shown a correlation so far between COVID-related deaths and reduced support for the incumbent. According to this graph from the New York Times, Trump’s approval rating tends to be lower in counties with higher death rates.

U.S. voting COVID-19

Chart #8: The price of democracy

The exceptionally high stakes could be a reason why this election is expected to be the most expensive to date. Spending is projected to reach over $13 billion, almost double the amount spent in 2016.

U.S. election spending

Source: Center for Responsive Politics

Chart #9: What the rest of the world thinks

Americans aren’t the only ones invested in the U.S. presidential election this year. The whole world is watching, and according to Ipsos, the majority is rooting for Biden.

How would the world vote?

But of course, the world doesn’t get to cast a vote today, making this final chart a moot point.

The real decision makers will be in the American electorate—and the forthcoming result will be on people’s minds for days, months, or maybe even years to come.

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Interactive Map: Tracking Global Hunger and Food Insecurity

Every day, hunger affects more than 700 million people. This live map from the UN highlights where hunger is hitting hardest around the world.

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The World Hunger Map

Interactive Map: Tracking Global Hunger and Food Insecurity

Hunger is still one the biggest—and most solvable—problems in the world.

Every day, more than 700 million people (8.8% of the world’s population) go to bed on an empty stomach, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP).

The WFP’s HungerMap LIVE displayed here tracks core indicators of acute hunger like household food consumption, livelihoods, child nutritional status, mortality, and access to clean water in order to rank countries.

The World Hunger Map

After sitting closer to 600 million from 2014 to 2019, the number of people in the world affected by hunger increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2020, 155 million people (2% of the world’s population) experienced acute hunger, requiring urgent assistance.

The Fight to Feed the World

The problem of global hunger isn’t new, and attempts to solve it have making headlines for decades.

On July 13, 1985, at Wembley Stadium in London, Prince Charles and Princess Diana officially opened Live Aid, a worldwide rock concert organized to raise money for the relief of famine-stricken Africans.

The event was followed by similar concerts at other arenas around the world, globally linked by satellite to more than a billion viewers in 110 nations, raising more than $125 million ($309 million in today’s dollars) in famine relief for Africa.

But 35+ years later, the continent still struggles. According to the UN, from 12 countries with the highest prevalence of insufficient food consumption in the world, nine are in Africa.

Country % Population Affected by HungerPopulation (millions)Region
Afghanistan 🇦🇫93%40.4Asia
Somalia 🇸🇴68%12.3Africa
Burkina Faso 🇧🇫61%19.8Africa
South Sudan 🇸🇸60%11.0Africa
Mali 🇲🇱60%19.1Africa
Sierra Leone 🇸🇱55%8.2Africa
Syria 🇸🇾55%18.0Middle East
Niger 🇳🇪55%22.4Africa
Lesotho 🇱🇸50%2.1Africa
Guinea 🇬🇳48%12.2Africa
Benin 🇧🇯47%11.5Africa
Yemen 🇾🇪44%30.0Middle East

Approximately 30 million people in Africa face the effects of severe food insecurity, including malnutrition, starvation, and poverty.

Wasted Leftovers

Although many of the reasons for the food crisis around the globe involve conflicts or environmental challenges, one of the big contributors is food waste.

According to the United Nations, one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally. This amounts to about 1.3 billion tons of wasted food per year, worth approximately $1 trillion.

All the food produced but never eaten would be sufficient to feed two billion people. That’s more than twice the number of undernourished people across the globe. Consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa each year.

Solving Global Hunger

While many people may not be “hungry” in the sense that they are suffering physical discomfort, they may still be food insecure, lacking regular access to enough safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development.

Estimates of how much money it would take to end world hunger range from $7 billion to $265 billion per year.

But to tackle the problem, investments must be utilized in the right places. Specialists say that governments and organizations need to provide food and humanitarian relief to the most at-risk regions, increase agricultural productivity, and invest in more efficient supply chains.

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Mapped: Where are the World’s Ongoing Conflicts Today?

In 2021, we live in a time of relative peace, however, as this map reveals, that does not mean there are no conflicts in the world today.

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Mapping World's Ongoing Conflicts

Where are the World’s Ongoing Conflicts Today?

We live in an era of relative peace compared to most of history, however, this does not mean that there are no conflicts in the world today.

This map using data from the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) reveals where the world’s 27 ongoing conflicts are today, and what type of conflicts they are.

Note: conflicts are categorized by definitions laid out by the CFR.

Detailing the Conflicts

Many people alive today have never lived through a war on their country’s soil, especially those in the West. But conflict, wars, and violence are by no means things of the past.

According to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), as of Q2’2021 alone:

  • Violence against civilians resulted in over 5,000 deaths worldwide
  • Battle related deaths numbered over 18,000
  • Explosion/remote violence led to more than 4,000 deaths
  • Riots resulted in over 600 fatalities

Most of the world’s conflicts are concentrated in Asia and Africa and the most common forms are territorial disputes and civil wars. While terrorism often strikes fear in people, only three of the world’s ongoing conflicts are linked to terrorism, according to the CFR.

Conflict NameTypeCountries Involved
Civil War in South SudanCivil War🇸🇸 South Sudan
War in YemenCivil War🇾🇪 Yemen
Civil War in LibyaCivil War🇱🇾 Libya
War in AfghanistanCivil War🇦🇫 Afghanistan
Civil War in SyriaCivil War🇸🇾 Syria
Instability in IraqCivil War🇮🇶 Iraq
Criminal Violence in MexicoCriminal🇲🇽 Mexico
Confrontation of U.S. & IranInterstates🇺🇸 United States
🇮🇷 Iran
Conflict of India & PakistanInterstates🇮🇳 India
🇵🇰 Pakistan
North Korea CrisisInterstates🇺🇸 United States
🇰🇵 North Korea
Violence in the DRCPolitical Instability🇨🇩 DRC
Instability in EgyptPolitical Instability🇪🇬 Egypt
Political Instability in LebanonPolitical Instability🇱🇧 Lebanon
Instability in VenezuelaPolitical Instability🇻🇪 Venezuela
Tigray War in EthiopiaPolitical Instability🇪🇹 Ethiopia
Boko Haram in NigeriaSectarian🇳🇬 Nigeria
Violence in Central African RepublicSectarian🇨🇫 Central African Republic
Rohingya Crisis in MyanmarSectarian🇲🇲 Myanmar
Nagorno-Karabakh ConflictTerritorial Disputes🇦🇲 Armenia
🇦🇿 Azerbaijan
Conflict in UkraineTerritorial Disputes🇺🇦 Ukraine
🇷🇺 Russia
Israeli-Palestine ConflictTerritorial Disputes🇮🇱 Israel
🇵🇸 Palestine
Turkey & Armed Kurdish GroupsTerritorial Disputes🇹🇷 Turkey
South China Sea DisputesTerritorial Disputes🇨🇳 China
🇻🇳 Vietnam
🇵🇭 Philippines
Tensions in East China SeaTerritorial Disputes🇨🇳 China
🇯🇵 Japan
Destabilization in MaliTerrorism🇲🇱 Mali
Al-Shabab in SomaliaTerrorism🇸🇴 Somalia
Islamist Militancy in PakistanTerrorism🇵🇰 Pakistan

As an example of a more typical conflict, Myanmar’s civil unrest began in February 2020 when the military overthrew the democratically elected government and arrested the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi. The civilian population has been protesting heavily but to no avail. According to a BBC report, more than 860 people have been killed and around 5,000 have been detained.

This is just one of the many examples of persistent violence today including recent events like Mexico’s midterm election violence, Ethiopia’s fighting in the country’s Tigray region, and the fighting between Israel and Palestine over the Sheikh Jarrah evictions.

Finally, though the United States military has now withdrawn from Afghanistan, and the Taliban has taken control of the country, the outlook for the country remains uncertain.

War and Peace

While there are conflicts today, deaths from violence and wars have and wars have decreased over time. For example, battle death rates in state-based conflicts have reduced significantly in a period from 1946 to 2016.

However, according to the UN, although battle related deaths have been decreasing, the number of conflicts occurring in the last few years has actually been on the rise (they have simply remained less deadly). Most conflicts have been waged by non-state actors, like organized criminal groups and political militias.

The UN found that the most common causes of conflict today are:

  • Regional tensions
  • Breakdowns in the rule of law
  • Co-opted or absent state institutions
  • Illicit economic gain
  • Scarcity of resources exacerbated by climate change

Traditional war between countries and war-related deaths may be becoming a thing of the past, but the threat of violence is still very real. Many countries know this as they continue to build up armies and spend significant amounts on military and defense.

The Future of Warfare

War and conflict are still extremely relevant in the 21st century and impact millions of people. However, traditional warfare may be changing its shape and may become less deadly as a result.

For instance, issues like climate change will create further exacerbations on conflicts, and new forms of technological and cyber warfare could threaten countries’ elections and manipulate populations.

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