Morphing small multiples to investigate Sri Lanka's religions
May 06, 2019
Earlier this month, the bombs in Sri Lanka led to some data graphics in the media, educating us on the religious tensions within the island nation. I like this effort by Reuters using small multiples to show which religions are represented in which districts of Sri Lanka (lifted from their twitter feed):
The key to reading this map is the top legend. From there, you'll notice that many of the color blocks, especially for Muslims and Catholics are well short of 50 percent. The absence of the darkest tints of green and blue conveys important information. Looking at the blue map by itself misleads - Catholics are in the minority in every district except one. In this setup, readers are expected to compare between maps, and between map and legend.
The overall distribution at the bottom of the chart is a nice piece of context.
The above design isolates each religion in its own chart, and displays the spatial spheres of influence. I played around with using different ways of paneling the small multiples.
In the following graphic, the panels represent the level of dominance within each district. The first panel shows the districts in which the top religion is practiced by at least 70 percent of the population (if religions were evenly distributed across all districts, we expect 70 percent of each to be Buddhists.) The second panel shows the religions that account for 40 to 70 percent of the district's residents. By this definition, no district can appear on both the left and middle maps. This division is effective at showing districts with one dominant religion, and those that are "mixed".
In the middle panel, the displayed religion represents the top religion in a mixed district. The last panel shows the second religion in each mixed district, and these religions typically take up between 25 and 40 percent of the residents.
The chart shows that other than Buddhists, Hinduism is the only religion that dominates specific districts, concentrated at the northern end of the island. The districts along the east and west coasts and the "neck" are mixed with the top religion accounting for 40 to 70 percent of the residents. By assimilating the second and the third panels, the reader sees the top and the second religions in each of these mixed districts.
This example shows why in the Trifecta Checkup, the Visual is a separate corner from the Question and the Data. Both maps utilize the same visual design, in terms of forms and colors and so on, but they deliver different expereinces to readers by answering different questions, and cutting the data differently.
P.S. [5/7/2019] Corrected spelling of Hindu.
Minor point: Hindi is a language, Hindu is a person who practices Hinduism.
Posted by: Chris Pudney | May 07, 2019 at 02:17 AM
As usual, it was interesting.
Just wanted to be everyday pedant and point out that your lovely charts had an error. Hindu is someone whose religion is Hinduism, while Hindi is a language. This is especially confusing because of the lot of Hindus in Sri Lanka speak Tamil.
Posted by: db | May 07, 2019 at 05:15 AM
cp & db: Thanks for the note. Will fix soon
Posted by: Kaiser | May 07, 2019 at 10:32 AM