Thursday, March 28, 2013

Google Mapping to focus independence efforts

Marc Belzunces published a cool mapping of Catalonia's Parliamentary election results on Tuesday, and it has generated enormous interest. It uses color to gauge pro-independence feeling by illustrating how people voted with respect to independence in the last elections.

The most exciting part to me is how he explains how to use the map to focus independence efforts in areas with current support between 30 and 50%. It is a monumental and brilliant way of using technology.

First, if you download Marc's KMZ files, and then open them into Google Earth, here's what you'll see as an overview of feeling on independence, based on how people voted in the Parliamentary elections on November 25, 2012:

Majories Finals 2012

In this map, dark blue means super-majority (>50%) in favor of independence, light blue shows a majority in favor of independence, orange means majority in favor of union, and red means super-majority in favor of union. Also note that “in favor of independence” is a rough shorthand for votes for the parties with independence in their platforms, namely CiU, ERC, and CUP, while "in favor of union" is a rough shorthand for votes parties opposed to independence, that is, PSC, PP, and Cs. Of course, there is not a 100% correspondence between an individual's stand on independence and their support for any political party. Also, since ICV (eco-greens) are not clearly pro independence or union, their votes are not reflected here.

It's good to remember, seeing that sea of blue, that the vast majority of Catalonia's population of 7.5 million is concentrated in (1.6M) and around (3.2M) Barcelona and the other metropolitan areas, where the situation is more complex, as you can see by zooming in. The areas surrounding Barcelona, often referred to as the "red belt", have high concentrations of Spanish-speaking, working class people from Andalusia, Extremadura, and other parts of Spain, that, historically, have tended to vote unionist. However, as Marc points out, it's not nearly as monochromatic as people like to think:

Cinturó Roig Relatiu

Marc found that pro-independence sentiment is greater in the historic center of metropolitan areas, like Terrassa, shown here:


Perhaps most interesting from a political and technological point of view is the map that Marc has made to "prioritize efforts for the pro-independence campaign". The map is a gradation of colors showing support for pro-independence parties (CiU, ERC, CUP, and SI), in which:

Dark green indicates 40-50% in favor of independence
Light green indicates 30-40% in favor of independence
Yellow: 20-30%
Orange: 10%-20%
Red: below 10%

The uncolored, transparent areas, which is most of the country, is where independence garners more than 50% support.

Priorització Esforços

Marc recommends focusing effort in those areas in which support for independence is between 30-50%, that is the green areas.

Indeed, I think the most remarkable part of this whole effort is that it is yet another example of someone using publicly-available information to make a tool that others can take advantage of in order effect political change. Anyone can download Marc's KMZ map overlays and then, as he recommends, "spend a few hours playing around with them, analyzing the data and its distribution. And then making decisions about where to act."

Indeed, another person I follow on Twitter, Catalina Ionescu, did just that, and discovered that a few of the most unionist areas of otherwise blue, metropolitan Barcelona correspond to areas with strong Spanish military presence. For example, the area around the Bruc Military Barracks:

Bruc Barracks

It will be interesting to see what else people come up with.

Some additional notes:

Marc commented to me shortly after I originally published this article, the pro-independence areas (dark and light blue) include 70% of Catalonia's electorate. The unionist areas are 30%. He also said that the "areas with simple majorities (light blue and orange) make up 56% of the data. These are the "battle zones".

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