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Putting a final touch on Bloomberg's terrific chart of social movements

My friend Rhonda D. wins a prize for submitting a good chart. This is Bloomberg's take on the current Supreme Court case on gay marriage (link). Their designer places this movement in the context of prior social movements such as women's suffrage and inter-racial marriage.


Previously, I mentioned New York Times' coverage using "tile maps." While the Times places geography front and center, Bloomberg prefers to highlight the time scale. (In the bottom section of Bloomberg's presentation, they use tile maps as well.)

These are the little things I love about the graphic shown above:

  • The very long time horizon really allows us to see our own lifetime as a small section of the history of the nation
  • The gray upper envelope showing the size of the union is essential background data presented subtly
  • The inclusion of "prohibition" representing a movement that failed (I wish they had included more examples of movements that do not succeed)
  • The open circle and arrow indicators to differentiate between ongoing and settled issues

They should have let the movements finish by connecting the open circles to the upper envelope. Like this:


This makes the steepness of the lines jump out even more. In addition, it makes a distinction between the movements that succeeded and the movement that failed. (Prohibition was repealed in 1933. The line between 1920 and 1933 could be more granular if such data are available.)



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Joe Crawford

It's a great line. Would love to see slavery prohibition on this graph, as well as voting for blacks and segregation.


Rather than plot number of states versus background of #states in the union, would it not be a simpler comparison to show % of states?
I realise that for some lines this would mean they show a downward trend when support is static but the union is growing (1790-1840 and 1885-1915, roughly).
Just a thought on an alternative here.


My thought is that rather than show the number of states, show the percentage of people that live in states with changed laws. This would help with both periods of time where the union is growing (similar to AdamV's comment) as well as put things in perspective with how many people are affected (IA and VT did something vs. NY and CA doing something.)

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