- October 22, 2008
A visualization experiments on interconnecting datasets:
Apart from the unsurprising evidence that (choose one: [[Obama is the overwhelming choice]] -OR- [[there is overwhelming liberal media bias]]), I’m struck by the mismatch between papers’ endorsements and their “Red State” vs “Blue State” alignment.
- I think the amount of red in the blue states is a market effect. If you’re the Boston Herald, there’s no percentage in agreeing with the Boston Globe; similarly Daily News vs New York Post, SF Examiner vs SF Chronicle. That’s why the Tribune endorsement, even accounting for hometown bias, is so striking. I don’t mean that they’re cynically pandering; rather that in a market with multiple papers readers, and journalists are efficiently sorted into two separate camps. (And the axis doesn’t have to be political: though the Chronic and the Statesman are politically distinct I see their main difference being lifestyle vs. traditional news).
- The amount of blue in the red states highlights how foolishly incomplete the “Red State/Blue State” model is for anything but electoral college returns. The largest part of the Red/Blue split is Rural/Urban — look at the electoral cartogram for the last election and almost every city is blue, even in the south and mountain; and almost all of our rural areal is red. The exceptions, chiefly Dallas, Houston and Boise, stand noticeably alone as having red unpaired with blue. (Though in this election even the Houston Chronicle is endorsing Obama.)I’m going to try to make a map colored by county, but there are no good off-the-shelf tools for doing this (that I’ve found).
This seems to speak of why so many on the right feel there’s a MSM bias — 50% of the country is urban, 50% rural, but newspapers are located exclusively in urban areas [see below]. So, surprisingly, the major right-leaning papers are all located in parts of the country we consider highly leftish. The urban areas that are the largest are thus both the most liberal and the most likely to have a sizeable conservative target audience.
[– Edit: Several people have asked me to justify my claim that the US is “50% urban, 50% rural”. I should have been more specific about that, because I’m using the terms loosely.
Here is a nice rule-of-thumb table:
Rank City, State Population Fraction of (approx) US population United States ~ 300 million all 1 New York, NY ~ 19 million ~ 1/16 10 Boston, MA ~ 5 million ~ 1/4 50 Rochester, NY ~ 1 million ~ 1/2 100 Daytona Beach, FL ~ 500 thousand ~ 2/3 200 Rockford, TX ~ 200 thousand ~ 3/4 363 Carson City, NV ~ 90 thousand ~ 82%
These are, of course, rough figures (though their mostly-coincidental values line up extremely well). I put the spreadsheet I used over here, and I’ll have all this up on infochimps.org later this week.
About 50% of the population lives within the boundaries of the top-50 metro areas, cities with 1M or more of population. Metropolitan areas are tautologically Urban, but at right about #50 you go from cities like Memphis and Salt Lake City to cities like Bethlehem/Allentown PA and Fresno, CA and Tulsa, OK. Wherever you draw the line between big and small city, life in an out-of-the-top-50ish metro area has a different flavor than life in a top-50ish metro.
I’m working on a separate post showing that political preference is part of that flavor, and that the political transition occurs near that boundary as well.
Finally, numbers supporting the claim that major newspapers are located almost exclusively in large cities:
- All of the top-25 papers by circulation are in cities of 2M (Sacramento) or larger.
- All of the top-50 papers are in cities of 1.2M (Oklahoma City) or larger.
- Only 20% of the top-100 papers are in cities smaller than 1M.