Worst DataViz Ever: CQ’s Poll Tracker
I often write about great datavisualizations–applications that use interactive graphics to illuminate a database in inventive ways. A great dataviz explains stuff in a way words alone cannot.
Today I’d like to pay tribute to one of the worst data presentations of the political season: Congressional Quarterly’s Poll Tracker.
Let me say first that it’s a great idea to take the most recent state-by-state presidential polling data from the most credible sources and update it daily. Put some experienced reporters on it so they’re not fooled by bogus numbers. This will produce an electoral map showing the latest polls in all 50 states. What more could an obsessive horse-race watcher ask for?
Unless you decide to just report the data in a blog, without connecting it to a map, and just leaving it in the order that the data comes in. Here’s what you get:
I thought this presentation looked eerily familiar. Then I recalled the two-year mobile broadband service contract I signed over the weekend. You know the way they print out those contracts on long receipt tape? And they have to fold it over four times just to get it in the bag? That’s what the CQ “dataviz” reminded me of.
This is a classic case of journalists not understanding that how you present data is just as important as the underlying data itself. Stick that daily-updated state-by-state polling data on a map, float the data on flash pop-ups and you have a powerful application, a real reader service and eyeball draw. Leave it in a blog and all that reporting. . .turns invisible.
To be fair, CQ does have projection data on a map for House, Senate and Governors races. It doesn’t appear to take the most recent polling data into account, but it toggles neatly between current landscape and projected election outcomes.
Oh, wait, look! There is a “President” map that presents the latest polling data! My mistake!
Oh, never mind. . .that’s the results from the 2004 election.