My thesis project is focused on encouraging positive social interactions between strangers across social/political/geographic lines of division. Fortunately for those of us who are interested in public opinion, we recently did a big national survey and got about 137 million responses1 from U.S. citizen adults, grouped by geography. Looking at the Allegheny County district-level results of this big survey sheds some light on the highly geographic nature of political behavior.

I got election return data and voting district shapefiles for Allegheny County from the fantastic Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center. I then used Carto’s very richly featured free web service to make a choropleth map illustrating district-by-district results for the county.

I am hoping to cooperate with Busy Beaver, a regional home improvement store chain, to use a few of their locations to do an interactive installation. By mapping Busy Beaver locations in Allegheny County layered on top of the voting results, I’m able to examine the general political bent of the people living near the stores. The idea is to select locations with politically different customer bases so that my installation can give people an unexpected chance to have a positive interaction with somebody they may perceive as being across the aisle socially, politically, or otherwise. (Insert shopping aisle pun here.)

Here is the Carto map I made:

(If that frame isn’t working for you, here’s a link to the version hosted on Carto.)

Hover over any district in the county to see the proportion of voters who cast ballots for Hillary Clinton there; this value has a greater dynamic range in Allegheny County than the proportion who cast ballots for Donald Trump so is a clearer way to gauge the election results.

It’s clear that the Lawrenceville Busy Beaver (the only one in Pittsburgh proper) is in a fairly pro-Clinton area, nestled between a few districts that hover around 74–78% Clinton voters. There are three Busy Beavers in “redder” (though paler blue on my map) areas of the county:

  • Castle Shannon—about 40–50% Clinton voters
  • White Oak—about 33–45% Clinton voters
  • New Kensington—about 35–55% Clinton voters2

It doesn’t take a fancy visualization to know that urban voters tend to be more liberal and rural voters tend to be more conservative. But it’s always good to check the received wisdom against actual data, which is why I’m glad to have this map to look at.

Stay posted for more information about the actual installation piece!

  1. Leip, David. “2016 Presidential Election Results”. Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. retreived January 27, 2017.

  2. The New Kensington Busy Beaver is actually right outside of Allegheny County, but only by a matter of a few blocks. It’s in Westmoreland County. I am looking at the Allegheny districts closest to the location to estimate local support, since I don’t for the moment have Westmoreland County district-level election results.