Today our President tweeted the following map:
|Screenshot from Twitter.com|
Boy oh boy, there is a lot of conversation on Twitter about this. And it's spilled over to other platforms as well--I saw at least two of my Facebook friends share a post that included an image of this tweet, and one of my favorite Instagram accounts, TerribleMaps shared it with a caption that I found pretty funny.
There has been a lot of commentary on Twitter about just what this map illustrates, both by supporters and detractors of the President. I find it interesting because this map is potentially misleading, particularly with the "Try to impeach this" text overlaid. This map is assumed to be an election results map from the 2016 Presidential election. (Though even that seems to be in dispute, if you do the slightest digging on Twitter.) The idea here being that the red on the map represents counties that voted for Trump, and the blue the counties that voted for Clinton.
The implication is that far more of the country voted for Trump than for Clinton. The further implication being that impeachment flies in the face of the voters' wishes. And, if one doesn't pause to think about what is actually being communicated in this map, that might be the quick take away. Cynically, I wonder if that is what Trump expects from his supporters: to not pause and think about what is actually being communicated in this map.
The problem with this map as a proxy for voters' wishes is, as someone said on Twitter (and I wish I could find the tweet now, but it's lost to me, unfortunately)...
dirt can't vote.
The point being, in an election results map, the number of counties in a particular color does not matter...the population of those counties matters. An awful lot of those counties in red have relatively small populations. And an awful lot of those counties in blue have relatively humongous populations. (Seriously...basically every large city in the U.S. is in one of the blue areas on the map.) "Dirt can't vote" means just because there is a large geographic area that happens to be "for" a particular candidate doesn't mean that there is a larger number of people there (or even an equivalent number of people there) who would support a particular candidate.
So what I'm really thinking about is how people don't often slow down enough and think about maps. As a geography teacher, of course I'm concerned about this. I would love it if people were more geographically literate in general.