Graph of voter turnout by age

Here’s a pretty picture (from Charles Franklin, link from John Sides):


What a great graph! I won’t be picky, but if I were, I’d make the following suggestions:
– Bigger numbers on the axes–as is, they’re hard to read.
– Add percentage signs on the y-axis.
– Label age every 20 years rather than every 10.
– Put the “80-84” age group at 82 (rather than 80), and put the “85 and up” group at 88 (rather than 85).
– Pick colors other than red and blue.

7 thoughts on “Graph of voter turnout by age

  1. What's wrong with red and blue?

    They are highly visible against a white background and aren't confused by people with red-green colour blindness. I would, however, anticipate that someone might photocopy the chart in black and white, so I would make the symbols different.

  2. I'd guess Andrew was afraid that red-blue might be associated with Republican-Democrat.

    But what's wrong with labeling age every 10 years?

  3. What I'd like to see (maybe as a separate graph) is the absolute number of voters by age. The graph above shows that while older people are more likely to vote (up to a point), there are more young people than old people. To me, that raises the question of which trend dominates — the increase in civic-mindedness or the increase in mortality? In other words, which age group(s) should politicians pander to the most?

  4. I agree about the red and blue. The subject, being so close to politics, could be confused at onset as voting participation between parties. At least that's what I thought it was until I read the legend.

    In fact, I bet people would be less likely to read the legend if they think they can figure out what the lines mean by their colors.

    And I don't see anything wrong with every 10 years either. =P

  5. John: Population sizes are indicated by the sizes of the dots.

    To all: Every 10 years is ok; I just thought that, once the axis numbers are larger, the whole thing would be easier to read just with numbers at 20, 40, 60, 80.

  6. This is a nice graph, no question about it. It seems to indicate that young people were starting to vote in greater numbers in 2004, backing up Zogbys new book. Does anybody know of indications that this trend is continuing or accelerating?

  7. But what's wrong with labeling age every 10 years?

    Every ten years is more than you need. Once you've scoped out the scale with four or five actual numbers, you can do the rest using nothing more than tick marks of varying lengths: people are quite capable of counting in twos and fives.

    Every ten years here is not too bad, since it only leads to seven numbers. Often, graph makers who don't know any better can produce dozens of labels all jammed together, or alternating in zigzags, far more than necessary.

    I've even seen a graph where the maker left actual data out because he couldn't cram any more labels into the scale. The idea that he could have put the year's data in *and not labelled the year at all* didn't occur to him, even though everyone knows that the year between 1996 and 1998 is 1997. It's simply not necessary to spell it out.

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