Boxplot as gridlines
Does it make sense?

Glass Half Full

2158820411pollThere are many reasons to commend this data graphic, from the Sacramento Bee, including:

  • Putting the no opinion group in the middle so that readers can compare the disapproves and the approves directly, utilizing both sides of the vertical axis
  • Sensible omission of either axes, since the relevant data have already been printed on the chart
  • Effective use of color
  • Good spacing in the legend to coincide with the bars
  • Inclusion of other data useful to interpreting the information, such as sample size, margin of error and sampling population

RedofieldpollTo the right is the junkart version, which improves upon the original in a few ways:

  • The bars are ordered in the only sensible way, by increasing proportions of those approving of the President.  Notice that if one were to focus on disapproval ratings, then Bush 2's is nothing unusual
  • The data labels inside the bars are aligned with the verticals, vastly enhancing readability
  • Omitting the data for "no opinion".  This reduces clutter without sacrificing information


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I've been struggling to show these data in context. I'm still not satisfied, but here are two attempts using national Gallup data (the Sacto Bee shows Field data for California).


Well, you're not really omitting the "no opinion" data. It can still be infered, and infered easily with simple addition. A tactic that is very much underused for many chart's accesory info.


Ken - I meant omitting the data labels. You're certainly right in saying that the data could be inferred.

Robert - I like your second graph with one line chart for each President and then superimposing them by switching to years in office in the time axis. You can clearly see the evolution of each President's approval rating.


The junkchart colours are more vivid, too.


I'm not sure the new order is "the only sensible way". The other showed presidents in chronological order which provided some context.


Well, if the message of the chart is "Bush 2 has the 2nd lowest approval rating of recent Presidents", then the new ordering is the most sensible. If the author wants to point out a trend, then chronological would make sense. Here, the chronological order makes it difficult to see that Bush 2 has the 2nd lowest rating.

Todd W.

Keeping them in chronological order, as bene, said, introduces an extra set of data not explicitly expressed in the chart - trend over time. I also disagree that the "no opinion" data is irrelevent. Clinton's 13% uncommitted versus Reagans 0% (!) says alot about political apathy in different time periods.

Another bit of interesting data would be to show where these points fall in a president's term. Reagan's low point fell mid-way through his first term, Bush Sr's fell just at the '92 election was heating up. Bush Jr's disapproval rating is only 8 points from Nixon's - which came at the time of his resignation.


when you try to improve on an already well executed chart, the quality of your typesetting should also be comparable to the original. from the font, over the spacing of the bars, to the colours, the junkchart version is such an eyesore that every improvement is negated. and while it's really good at showing that bush's aproval rating is the 2nd lowest since nixon (a simple statement for which i wouldn't need a chart in the first place), it actually contains less information than the original. which, if you survey me, gets an extremely low approval rating.


Todd W. wrote:

Clinton's 13% uncommitted versus Reagans 0% (!) says alot about political apathy in different time periods.

I'm not sure what it says about political apathy because that's only a single point in time. Here is the long-term trend in "don't know/undecided/no opinion" in presidential job approval for the Gallup (not Field) poll:
Patterns in DK's appear to vary systematically both across time and across polling houses.

In addition, here's the long-term trend in net approval (i.e., approval-disapproval), once again from Gallup:


Maybe I'm blind but it is far from obvious to me that Bush's approval rating was 2nd lowest of all the numbers depicted in the original chart.

And pray tell what is the trend that people have observed in the original chart? That approval ratings fluctuate from year to year? That there is no discernible trend?


What I would like to see is a chronological ordering with a line plot superimposed showing California's political party registration over the same time period. I think that this will show as California trended Democratic, Democratic Presidents enjoyed higher approval and vice-versa.


information about sample size, margin of error and sampling population are only given for the most recent timepoint, the rating for g.w. bush in april 2006.

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