Smart Charts

The Guardian’s Chart on the Other Issues

As we work through the debates this month, it’s unlikely that voters will learn many new factoids about where the candidates stand on the primary campaign issues. Obama and Romney’s positions were laid out by the time the conventions rolled around.

But The Guardian has a chart that provides some additional information for the savvy voter, outlining where the candidates agree and differ on less conventional issues. Drawing from the candidates’ own books and journalistic profiles of the two, the chart reveals how Obama and Romney feel about healthy eating, television programs, wooing the ladies and more.


Two Charts on Wall Street’s Political Reversal

Wall Street was firmly behind Obama in 2008 — but this year, the employees of many big banks have thrown their support behind Romney.

Last week, The Wall Street Journal took a look at Goldman Sachs Group, the corporation that in 2008 was Obama’s biggest backer, with over one million dollars in donations from individual employees. Like most of Wall Street, this year Goldman Sachs employees are behind Romney — data from the Center for Responsive Politics shows they’ve given the Romney campaign $900,000, and given his super PAC an additional $900,000. In the forty years since Congress created the campaign finance system, no corporation has switched sides so dramatically in such a short period of time.


What Do the Candidates’ Gestures Tell Us?

Besides the talking points, the zingers and the straight-to-camera delivery, there’s another way that the candidates communicate with voters: body language. The New York Times presented a fun interactive feature today that attempts to interpret the gestures the candidates favor when speaking publicly.

Peggy Hackney is an analyst at the New York University Movement Lab, and she’s been studying the body language of both candidates during their speeches and debates. If you hadn’t noticed, apparently Obama makes a lot of chopping motions with his hand, while Romney tilts his head and nods a lot. Hackney pulled out six gestures the candidates favor in their stump speeches and analyzes what they tell us about the candidates.


The Growing Latino Vote

A new report released yesterday by the Pew Hispanic Center shows that since 2008, America’s Latino voting population has grown by 4 million, or 22 percent, to 23.7 million. Latinos now make up 11 percent of the electorate – an increase from 9.5 percent in 2008 and 8.2 percent in 2004.

The study points out that although the number of Latino voters has increased, their turnout has historically lagged behind other groups, especially whites and African Americans. Voter turnout rates among all racial minority populations have been gradually increasing since 2000, while the voter turnout rate for whites decreased slightly between 2004 and 2008.


America: “The Land of the Percents”

Romney’s recent characterization of the mindset of the 47 percent of Americans who don’t pay income taxes has spurred discussion about who pays what, and how income, taxes and entitlements affect American voters’ decisions in the voting booth. And though percentiles have become a trendy way to describe groups of people, they sometimes aren’t as effective in telling the whole story as we might like.

That said, the Guardian‘s Data Blog has a put together an interactive map that attempts to break down America’s 47 percent even further, showing how different groups of Americans are distributed by state: “The U.S. has become a land of percents: the 1% versus the 99%, the 8% unemployed or the 15% in poverty,” writes Guardian news editor Simon Rogers. His map groups Americans not just by taxes, employment and poverty; it also shows the seven percent who are veterans, the 15 percent without medical insurance, the 13 percent over 65 years of age.


At the End of Life, Seniors Face Huge Out-of-Pocket Medical Expenses

According to a new study, many seniors on Medicare spend all of their assets covering healthcare costs during the last five years of their lives. Among seniors living alone, the figures were even higher.

These charts (via Wonkblog) show the results of a project by Dr. Amy S. Kelly, a professor at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York. Using information from the Health and Retirement Study, Dr. Kelley took a look at medical costs paid out-of-pocket by seniors nearing the end of their lives. She found that, even with over $500 billion dollars going to Medicare each year, the average senior spends $38,688 during the last five years of their lives. Over 20 percent spend more than $50,000.


Back to School, On a Tight Budget

Those tales you’ve heard — of teacher layoffs, over-crowded classrooms, cancelled art programs and students having to provide their own toilet paper — may be even worse this year, with per-student spending down from last year in 26 states. These new cuts come on top of steep reductions made in the past few years.

This chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (via Wonkblog) shows that per-student spending in most states is lower now than it was in 2008, when the financial collapse led to drastic reductions in state revenues.

Welcome back, everyone!

Amazon’s 2012 Election Heat Map

Earlier this month, posted a “heat map” that tracks the political books Americans are buying on their site. It’s updated daily. They say the map is a “novel way” to track political conversation in the run-up to November’s election.


How Much is Washington Worth?

Did you know that Mitt Romney is almost 20 times as wealthy as Barack Obama? Or that the five richest members of the Senate are all Democrats? This infographic, which compares the net worth* of the presidential candidates, members of Congress and the general public makes it hard to believe anyone in Washington who says he’s one of us.

The data on the chart is from 2010, so if you want up-to-the-minute tallies, check out The Hill‘s annual ranking of the 50 wealthiest lawmakers, which was published today. And in case you were wondering, here’s a list of the 25 members of Congress with the lowest net worth. Feel better now?


Map: Voter ID Laws by State

Demonstrators hold signs at an NAACP-organized rally on the steps of the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., to protest the state's new voter identification law. Democrats say it's an election year stunt to steal the White House. Republicans say it's necessary to prevent voting fraud. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)

In our recent interview with Keesha Gaskins and Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice, Bill highlighted new election laws that keep the young, elderly, minorities and the poor from voting.

Key to this disenfranchisement is a nationwide surge in voter ID laws. Since 2005 — when the Indiana and Georgia state legislatures passed strict photo ID requirements for voters, some thirty states have passed voter ID laws, many based on model legislation drafted in 2009 by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council (we’ll have more coverage on ALEC in a few weeks).


Libor Blackout: Major Networks are Ignoring the Bank Scandal

You’ve probably heard about the ongoing investigation of global banks and the manipulation of Libor, the critical interest rate that banks use as a benchmark to borrow money from each other and to set rates on virtually all commercial loans, credit cards, mortgages, etc. Maybe you heard about it from The New York Times or Bloomberg News, or even here at

Two places we’re sure you didn’t hear about it are ABC’s World News and NBC’s Nightly News, because they haven’t covered it — at all. According to Media Matters for America, the two networks ignored the scandal that The Financial Times‘s Chris Giles writes has “the power to make the heads of commercial banks quake in their boots.”

A Snapshot of Our Nation’s Veterans

Ever wondered how many veterans there are in the United States? Or maybe which cities have the most veterans living in them? Well, we’re glad you asked because the U.S. Census infographics department has been hard at work making the data they collect more digestible to the general public. And as TIME’s Battlefield blogger Mark Thompson notes — you’ve already paid for the information — so why not learn something from it? MORE

Veteran Unemployment Numbers in Decline

Earlier this month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released their June unemployment numbers for veterans. The report includes the breakdown for one closely watched group: Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans (“Gulf II-era veterans”). And while the numbers are still worse than the national average, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs blog reports that the rate for this group fell “more than three full percentage points to 9.5 percent.”

While much remains to be done, since January 2012, post-9/11 Veterans have experienced the lowest unemployment rate in any combined six-month period since 2008 — with the rate reaching single digits in four of the last six months. Additionally, the trend over the past 30 months — since January 2010 — remains downward for America’s most recent Veterans.

Month-to-month unemployment rate figures for this demographic are fairly volatile, but the long-term trend has shown a consistent decline over this two and a half-year period — a strong sign of recovery following the worst economic disaster since The Great Depression.


Military Suicides Surge

Suicide is surging as a cause of death among American military service people, with nearly one suicide a day in the first half of this year, according to Pentagon statistics reported by the Associated Press. That’s more than the number of soldiers killed in action in Afghanistan in the same time period. Suicide rates for members of the military used to be lower than the general public, but the number has been rising since the beginning of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Jackie Garrick, the director of the Pentagon’s newly established Defense Suicide Prevention Office, said in an interview with The Huffington Post that this year’s suicide numbers are “troubling.”

“We are very concerned at this point that we are seeing a high number of suicides at a point in time where we were expecting to see a lower number of suicides,” she said, adding that the weak U.S. economy may be confounding preventive efforts even as the pace of military deployments eases.

Author and veteran Karl Marlantes, who will appear in conversation with Bill on Moyers & Company this weekend, blames the repeated tours of duty in today’s wars. During the Vietnam War, service was limited to about a year, he says “so that they know when it’s over.” Today, members of our all-volunteer army are serving longer than almost any time in our nation’s history.

In the lead up to our interview with Marlantes, we’ll be featuring a chart of the day related to the military and veterans. Check back here for more.

Mapping Gun Ownership and Homicides by Country

A new interactive feature on The Guardian’s “Data Blog” pulls in gun homicide data from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Small Arms Survey to map the number of guns and gun deaths in countries around the world. Some key facts from their report:

• The United States has the highest gun ownership rate in the world — an average of 88 per 100 people. That puts it first in the world for gun ownership — and even the number two country, Yemen, has significantly fewer – 54.8 per 100 people
• But the U.S. does not have the worst firearm murder rate — that prize belongs to Honduras, El Salvador and Jamaica. In fact, the U.S. is number 28, with a rate of 2.97 per 100,000 people
• Puerto Rico tops the world’s table for firearms murders as a percentage of all homicides — 94.8%. It’s followed by Sierra Leone in Africa and Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean


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