NPR : News

Filed Under:

A Campaign Map, Morphed By Money

Campaign reporters spend a lot of time pointing at color-coded electoral maps like the one below, showing which states voted for Republican John McCain (in red) and Democrat Barack Obama (in blue) in 2008.

But these maps lie — visually speaking.

Red appears to be the clear winner, dominating a vast swath from the South to the Rockies. It's all geographically accurate, but electorally skewed. For example, Montana (three electoral votes) dwarfs Massachusetts (which had 12 electoral votes in 2008).

To fix this problem, some political cartographers have resized the states based on their electoral vote tally.

In this map, the influence of the Northeast is a bit more apparent, and the stature of the Mountain West has diminished. We've shaded the states based on their popular vote results in 2008. States that were split 50-50 are purple.

But this map still doesn't accurately convey which states are most important in this election. What would this map look like if states were scaled based on the outside money (not even including the massive ad spending by the campaigns of President Obama and Mitt Romney themselves) coming into the presidential race for political ads?

We looked at ad spending on the presidential race from April 10 to Oct. 10, based on data from Kantar Media. The millions of dollars spent by superPACs and other outside groups send a clear message: There are really only 12 states in this presidential election. It's no surprise that they are all pretty purple.

There is another way to think about this spending — how much is being spent on political ads by these groups per voting-age adult?

Here, Nevada and New Hampshire take the lead. Though they don't have large populations, both states are seeing millions of dollars invested by outside groups on ads related to the presidential contest. That works out to more than $5 per adult.

So if you're lucky enough to live in the Granite State, congratulations. In some ways, your vote is a thousand times more valuable than the votes of your neighbors in Vermont.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


From Trembling Teacher To Seasoned Mentor: How Tim Gunn Made It Work

Gunn, the mentor to young designers on Project Runway, has been a teacher and educator for decades. But he spent his childhood "absolutely hating, hating, hating, hating school," he says.

How Do We Get To Love At 'First Bite'?

It's the season of food, and British food writer Bee Wilson has a book on how our food tastes are formed. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with her about her new book, "First Bite: How We Learn to Eat."

Osceola At The 50-Yard Line

The Seminole Tribe of Florida works with Florida State University to ensure it that its football team accurately presents Seminole traditions and imagery.

Payoffs For Prediction: Could Markets Help Identify Terrorism Risk?

In a terror prediction market, people would bet real money on the likelihood of attacks. NPR's Scott Simon speaks with Stephen Carter about whether such a market could predict — and deter — attacks.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.