The Ipsos Political Atlas: The Big Picture Behind What the Public Thinks

The guessing game of politics is over. The Ipsos Political Atlas is a new interactive tool that captures how the public is reacting to the election in real time.

The author(s)

  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs
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Turn on cable news or read about the political implications of some developing news story, and you’ll find that much of what fills political news coverage is speculation, not grounded or backed up with any data on what matters most during these conversations: the voters.

Enter: the 2020 Political Atlas project, a collaboration between Ipsos and the UVA Center for Politics.

The site creates a home for many sources of political data which work together to produce a more refined tool for understanding where the public stands on the most pressing issues for a candidate, campaign, and election cycle while they are happening. It also places the power of narrative-building in the hands of the users through its interactive features, allowing people to explore for themselves what the data says.

Each political metric plays a role here. Polling serves to take a freezeframe of where the public stands in a moment, stitched together over time by polling on the same question, and then augmented by averaging many different polls together. Digital metrics work to add sound and texture to some of the conversations swirling around the public’s developing opinion. Combined, both provide unique insights into how people are feeling and how those sentiments are changing.

Merging these two areas to embark on this enterprise was the brainchild of Mark Polyak, Senior Vice President at Ipsos, and Chris Jackson, Vice President of Ipsos Public Affairs. Fusing Jackson’s expertise in polling and American politics with Polyak’s prowess and experience in cutting edge digital research, the project answers relevant questions at the intersection of those two fields.

So, what’s on it?

A national map on the tracks where candidates are physically located in real time along with how many delegates they have won. Scroll down below the map to see polling averages for each candidate as they move on and off the trail.

The polling averages provide insight into where the candidates stand nationally. The “Public Poll Average” is an average of all national polls released daily. Users can also direct their own a candidate-by-candidate comparison of how contenders stack up on select issues, like the economy, healthcare, and the environment.

True to its mission to break down candidates’ digital reach beyond what the polling numbers alone have to say, the site also tracks core digital metrics.

The Google Search Share function gathers all the google searches on the candidates and then breaks out what share of the total can be attributed to each candidate. If Buttigieg has 30% of the Google Search Share, for instance, then for every ten times someone searches the presidential candidates, three of those searches pertain to the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

Social net sentiment scrapes Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, local new sites, among many other social sources for mentions of the candidates, weeding out bots, and then nets whether the surrounding sentiment of that mention is positive or negative, giving an overall score from 0 to 100 (0 representing absolutely negative and 100 absolutely positive).

Though the project offers crucial insights into the volume and overall tone of the digital conversation about candidates, Polyak’s commentary holds true: “Social media is not representative of [the] general population and is not equivalent to polling data.” Political Atlas marries these two sources of information to give users a fuller picture of the digital world of campaigns and how that is landing with the public through polling.  

More traditional metrics, like campaign fundraising totals, are also available for people to familiarize themselves with.

The digital world has added another layer to campaigning, punditry, and understanding how a race is developing for voters.  Many political battles are now fought and won online, and Political Atlas helps everyone from the political expert to the armchair analyst keep up with those developments.


The author(s)

  • Sarah Feldman Data Journalist, US, Public Affairs