Saturday, May 12, 2012

Visualization on how Brazilian representatives vote in Congress

The current dominance of American media in information graphics and visualization sometimes overshadows the efforts of non-US newspapers and magazines. Among the most interesting cases of serious investment in data journalism that I know, I usually highlight Estado de São Paulo, which has a notable record of innovation thanks to the close collaboration between precision journalists, such as José Roberto Toledo, developers, and a groundbreaking infographics department.

Estado's latest big visualization project is called Basômetro. It's an analysis tool that lets you see what members of Congress voted against or in favor of President Dilma Rousseff since the beginning of her government, in 2011.

If you don't understand Portuguese, here's how to read it: each circle is a representative; the parties are color-coded, and can also be identified by their position on the horizontal axis: the farther to the left a group of dots is, the more on average that party votes with Rousseff. The position of each individual dot on the vertical axis is proportional to the percentage of times that congressman has supported the government. You can click on the dots and get some specifics.

Among the many other useful features this tool has, I would point out the search box on the upper right corner (something that is missing in many graphics similar to this one), and the filters: by party (on the left), by state (on the right) and by time range (at the bottom).

Now, see the menu that says "por bancadas partidárias". Open it and select "por votações". That will bring up a bar chart (see below) that shows you how the parties and congressmen voted on each initiative. Use the slider at the bottom to see different laws. Right underneath the graphics, the Estado's folks have included a couple of nice and short explanation videos and a thorough introduction to how this tool was made. This is good stuff.