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January 4, 2011

Filed under: journalism»new_media»data_driven

Your Scattered Congress 2010

Once again, I present CQ's annual vote studies in handy visualization form, now updated with the figures for 2010. This version includes some interesting changes from last year:

  • Load times should now be markedly faster. I decoupled the XML parsing pseudo-thread from the framerate by allowing it to run for up to 10ms before yielding back to the VM for rendering. Previously, it processed only a single member and then waited for the next timer tick, which probably meant at least 16ms per member even on machines capable of running much faster.
  • Clicking on a dot for a single member now loads that member's CQ profile page (subscribers only). Clicking on a dot representing multiple members will bring up a table listing all members, and clicking on one of these rows (or a row in the full Data Table view) will open the profile page in a new window.
  • Tooltips now respect the boundaries of the Flash embed, which makes them a lot more readable.
  • Most importantly, the visualization now collects multiple years in a single graphic, allowing you to actually flip between 2009 and 2010 for comparison. We have plans to add data going back to at least 2003 (CQ's vote studies actually go back more than 50 years, but the data isn't always easy to access). When that's done, you'll be able to visually observe shifts in partisanship and party unity over time.
Notably not changed: it's still in Flash. My apologies to the HTML5 crowd, but the idea of rendering and interacting with more than 500 alpha-blended display objects (four-fifths of which may be onscreen at any time), each linked to multiple XML collections, is not something I really consider feasible in cross-browser Javascript at this time.

The vote studies are one of those quintessentially CQ products: reliable, wonky, and relentlessly non-partisan. We're still probably not doing justice to it with this visualization, but we'll keep building out until we get there. Take a look, and let me know what you think.

Future - Present - Past