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The Real Toronto Election Map

October 29, 2010

Note: this post is about the Toronto Municipal election that Rob Ford won. But you know, you can apply the feeling here to more recent elections, sigh.

I’ve been very frustrated with the media’s story that the Toronto election was a landslide and that it was all downtown vs uptown. Ford won fair and square but keep in mind that more than half the city didn’t vote for him (he got 47% of the city vote). Now the new story is based on a silly map of red and blue wards showing which candidate won the most votes in each ward.  This shows a very divided city.  But its completely misleading since some wards were very close, some had a third voting for someone else and even the strong core wards of each candidate still had 20-30%  for someone else.  That’s a lot of voters being swept under the rug.

So I made my own map, two actually.

I used the election open data from the city of Toronto to colour each ward. Each ward has both blue and red intensity relative to what percentage of the ward voted for Ford or Smitherman.  So if they are almost even as in ward 26 its a mild purple. Etobicoke is quite blue with 65% to 79% (ward 2) support for Ford and downtown is fairly red with some wards showing 61%  (ward 27) support for Smitherman.  So you can clearly see the lack of excitement for Smitherman’s campaign that everyone is commenting on and this is why he lost. You can also see that the downtown vs suburbs effect is real but is not nearly as strong as the media tries to say it is; it’s a gradual scale and Smitherman lost more because he didn’t have as many strongholds rather than that no one in the outer city voted for him.

The second map also overlays the “Other” vote, Pantalone plus anyone else, with yellow lines.  The lines don’t mean anything but their brightness shows you how much of that ward voted for someone other than the two contenders. They range from about 8% (ward 2) to 33% (ward 18) of the ward.

When will the media stop pandering to us and give us the full context rather than always trying to simplify things down to get at some particular framing of the story like “Downtown vs Suburbs”.  The world is never that simple. That is all.

The raw image file with layers is available here to anyone if you want to make it prettier or add other data, its in Gimp format, which is like an open source version of Photoshop.

Pass them around on twitpic:

Ford vs Smitherman :
With “Other” vote :

Update: Thanks everyone for the feedback on the maps! Here’s some extra info

  • spreadsheet – this is the mayoral results spreadsheet from the Toronto Open Data site but with some summary calculations worked out on the Ward 1 sheet. Each ward’s summary for votes for each of four categories.
  • photoshop image file – this is my gimp program saving its native xcf file format to photoshop psd.  If that doesn’t work for you let me know in the comments, I’ll try something else
  • why you might not want to bother – Patrick Cain has made some fantastic, zoomable scrollable maps of the Toronto votes data that make all this photoshop fiddling look pretty basic. So you should go over there first and see if he’s showing the data you want to surface.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. October 29, 2010 3:20 pm

    Either a hard Ford vs. Smitherman map or gradual Ford to Smitherman map is fine to look at. Similar maps have been produced for US presidential elections which show counties with huge support for the Democratic presidential candidate in blue, support for the Republican candidate in blue, and mid-level support in various shades of purple. It depend on how one wishes to present or interpret different maps.

    • October 29, 2010 3:28 pm

      Yes the blue state/red state/purple state maps from the last US election are where I got the idea for it. But I think these kinds of maps are quantitatively better since it is actually representing all the information. Some of it is being summarized, we could break out the Pantalone vote separetly or add information about how each choice ranked in each riding, but the red vs blue map actually throws out more than half the information from the election. It takes the highest vote in each ward and uses that to pick the colour, then discards the rest.

      These maps might be harder to interpret but that’s only because the world is harder to interpret.

      I also would like to point out that the ward map view is really just a tool for looking at the vote, the Mayor is of course selected based on the total votes across the city, it doesn’t matter how many wards a candidate ‘wins’, only the sum across all wards matter. But this is a way of summarizing how different parts of the city voted without throwing out much information.

  2. Tyson Vickers permalink
    October 29, 2010 6:07 pm

    I like your maps and I’ve been waiting for something similar…though it’d be even more representative if you could depict Pantalone’s support with an intensity of green instead of wavy yellow lines. You’d see a lot of cyan/yellow/grey/magenta, instead of purple.

    (Given that three RGB values make up colors on a computer screen, I’m surprised nobody has done so.)

    • October 29, 2010 6:28 pm

      thanks, glad you like them.
      I thought about doing that but since Pantalone’s support ranged from 8-33% and he didn’t ‘win’ any wards I didn’t want to detract from the compartive performance of the two leaders. Its hard enough for people to think along one continous spectrum without given them the whol colour cube. You can try it out though, I’ll try to save the image file as a photoshop format and upload the spread sheet with the summaries I worked out too.

      Other interetsting things to add I’ve thought of:
      – in each ward, if all the “Other” votes were thought of as one candidate then did the ward get their first, second or third choice in having Ford be mayor. In several wards Ford actually came third in this scheme. There are also probably wards where Smitherman ‘won’ the ward but Ford was the second choice.
      – which wards had majority support for one candidate? Lots of wards didn’t have anyone get over 50% of the population behind any one candidate. This means the red and blue media graphic really is throwing away more than half the information.

      But all of that makes it hard for the media to tell of what the ‘story’ of the election was.

  3. Nate permalink
    October 29, 2010 11:34 pm

    Hey Mark,

    I like your work here…I’d really appreciate it if you were able to provide some of that raw data and especially PSP files. I don’t have .xcf software and mainly work in photoshop, but I’d love to work on manipulating these graphics.

    I agree with the critique that the red and blue maps encourage the perception of a polarized city, but this election has also clarified the philosophical divide in the city. Maps like this could be useful for determining political boundaries with respect to zoning preferences, transit and road policy and other governance/policy issues that are in stalemate at our perpetually dysfunctional city hall.

  4. Robert David permalink
    October 31, 2010 7:44 am

    Thanks for the work and map, very useful. It indeed shows a less clear cut divide, but differences of opinion and tendancies remain important, and need to be addressed. One of the reasons to merge suburbs on the island of Montreal was to provide greater fiscal equity (i.e. so that all who benefited from a better downtown core and services contributed proportionately and in part according to ability to pay). However if a majority or plurality of voters in the burbs vote to cut taxes and expenditures in the inner city, one of the main reasons for such a merge is lost. I understand however that the Harris govt’s reason to merge the cities in GTA might have been the opposite: to help cut the power and social services of the original, more leftish City of Toronto.

    By the way, do you know of a similar map produced after the last federal general election in 2008? It would also show less polarization between the regions of the country (East vs. West, QC vs. ROC, etc.)


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