Ryan Rickerts

CS 498 Data Visualization - Final Project

The Impact of the Coal Economy on the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

This narrative visualization is structured as an interactive slideshow. Each scene is presented with a title at the top of the slide, a U.S. map at the bottom, and a brief introduction to what the graphical data is trying to convey in the middle.

Using the arrow buttons at the bottom right of the scene (or the arrow buttons on your keyboard), the viewer can navigate to the next slide, previous slide, or down to get more information on the topic presented. Once on a lower slide, the up arrow brings them back to the map. The arrows are annotated with the slide number and depth, such as 1.2 (slide 1, depth 2). For a consistent experience across slides, the buttons, tooltips, and zoom levels of the U.S. map are all the same. Pushing a button on one slide zooms with the same focus on OH and PA across all slides. Thanks, D3!

For triggers, I provide a map of the U.S. with the option to hover over for more specific data displayed at the top of the map. It is cleared once the mouse leaves the map. With the click of a button, the viewer may zoom into the region in question or zoom back out to see the entire U.S. The state of the button changes accordingly.

The parameters are the state or county the user points their mouse at which loads the state election and county coal employment data parameters. The annotations are the corresponding election or coal employment data from loaded JSON files displayed above the map.

Sources: The map data join and interaction features are built with D3.js. The SVG path data (in GeoJSON format) is handled by the topojson library and the U.S. atlas data. The slideshow features are built with Reveal.js. The U.S. states and county data was manually prepared (in both JSON and CSV formats) with election figures pulled from Townhall.com and coal employment data from U.S. Energy Information page (eia.gov).

Code: You can view the code on Github. The first iteration of this visualization from our Midterm assignment can be viewed on Tableau Public.

The Impact of the Electoral College on the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Question: How did the prevalance of coal as an employer in the rural economy of Ohio and Pennsylvania impact the 2016 presidential election?

Blue indicates a state went Democratic in the electoral college. Red indicates Republican. Navigate down to read more about how large a factor these two critical Swing States were in the U.S. Electoral College.

Select a State to see Electoral Vote Counts

The Electoral College and “Swing States”

Donald Trump did not win the popular election for U.S. President in 2016. He won on electoral votes alone which has happened only four times in the history of electing 45 U.S. Presidents.

The key to this result is the phenomenon called Swing States. Whereas, from one Presidential election to the next, many states always or often result in either a Democratic or Republican win (also called their Traditional Strongholds), there are twelve states that can go either way depending on the hot button topics and prominent mood of the time. They are also called Battleground States, meaning where the battle can be won or lost.

Swing States that flipped from supporting Obama (Democrat) in 2012 to Trump (Republican) in 2016 (and their votes) were Iowa (6), Wisconsin (10), Ohio (18), and Pennsylvania (20). These would have been focused targets for the Trump team to win over with campaign promises.

For the purposes of this presentation, we will be zooming in on the two of that list with the most active coal mines - Ohio and Pennsylvania - which accounts for the majority of those electoral votes up for grabs out of the four states (38 out of 54 or 70%). Wisconsin and Iowa also do not have any significant coal mining activity so are not included in this analysis.

The Impact of Coal Employment on the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

This graph displays changes in mining employment data at the state level from 2014-2015. Highlight a state with mining activity (black outlines) to see the drop in number of mines and people employed.

Navigate down to consider the voters' perspectives in these states in light of Hillary and Donald's campaign promises.

Select a state to see Coal's economic decline

False Promises of Coal Jobs from the Trump Administration

From the Chicago Times (just two states west of OhiO), an article printed during the election campaign discussed the fate of coal mining in Illinois, which is also in decline in recent years (but not nearly as dramatically as in OH, PA, and their neighboring states of KY, IN, and WV):

“Coal's decline has become an issue in the presidential race. Hillary Clinton stirred fear in the mines when she told a town hall in March that the shift to clean, renewable energy means ‘we're going to put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business.’

“She added that she wants to bring new economic opportunities to coal country, but the damage was done: Donald Trump, who has vowed to ‘bring those miners back’ by scrapping regulations, is seen by some as the industry's last hope.

“‘I think (the election) is pivotal,’ said Bob Sandidge, owner of a mining services company and founder of an advocacy group called Coal Miner's Movement. ‘Hillary said she's going to carry on with the clean power plan, and that's going to be the final nail in the coffin.’”

The Impact of Coal Employment on the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

This graph displays mining data at the county level. Highlight a county (brown shapes) to see the county name, total number of mines (surface and underground) and tons produced in 2016.

The voters in coal mining dominant counties of Ohio and Pennsylvania would certainly pick Trump over Hillary in light of their economic situation and the candidates' campaign promises (true or not).

Navigate down to read a summary of their production statistics and how Trump plays these economic chords like a fiddle.

Select a County to see Coal Production Data

False Claims of Increased Coal Jobs from the Trump Administration

Ohio had 25 active mines in 2015, both surface and underground, producing 17 million short tons and Pennsylvania has 195 mines producing 50 million short tons. This is 20% of the coal produced east of the Mississipi River.

Trump loved to claim he could bring back the glory days of coal (even though global economic factors are far more powerful than his promises), when campaigning in these are coal producing states. Trump's team passed out signs that read, “Trump Digs Coal” and he said that, if he’s elected, “We’re going to put the miners back to work.”

In a recent statement, Trump's new head of the EPA, Scott Pruitt, claimed the coal sector has added “almost 50,000 jobs” since Q4 2016. Pruitt seems to be making outlandish claims to try and back up Trump's false promises from the 2016 campaign trail. We can presume after all his failures in repealing Obamacare as promised, he needed something successful to point at, even if totally false.

The Impact of Coal Employment on the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

This graph displays data at the county level for the past two presedential elections. Highlight a county in OH or PA to see the county name, number of votes for the Republican party in 2012 vs. 2016 and percent change.

The counties with active coal mines are colored again in brown. You can see what a difference this made by looking at the increase in votes for Republicans in those counties and in neighboring counties.

Navigate down to read how significant of a change these figures are historically for these states.

Select a County to see Election Data

A Huge Shift to Republican Support in OH and PA in 2016

The Republican strategy is often to win enough rural voters, both through election turnout and switching parties, to counteract the Democratic dominance in highly populated urban centers. We can see how the coal mining counties made a huge difference in this strategy in the critical swing states of OH and PA.

Pennsylvania had not voted for a Republican president since voting for George H.W. Bush in 1988. Trump won there by 68,236 votes, netting him 20 electoral votes. Voter turnout increased by 6.3% and the shift to Republican support from 2012 to this election was 6.1% higher.

Ohio voted for Obama both times in the past two elections, 50.67% to Mitt Romney's 47.69% in 2012, and 51.38% to John McCain's 46.80% in 2008. The shift from Democrat to Republican in the popular vote from '12 to '16 increased 11.1% and Trump beat Hillary by 8.1%. The state earned him 18 electoral votes.

Trump won the presidency with 304 electoral votes and Hillary earned 227 where 270 are the minimum required to win. Flipping just these two states back to their former Democratic stance would have both candidates nearly tied in the overall race for electoral votes and neither victorious.