Recent surveys reveal that during the last two decades, an increasing number of Americans have chosen to veer Right or Left in their political orientation — with almost no center ground. That trend becomes especially apparent when looking at U.S. election results, county-by-county, since 1960.

The red-blue maps that we're accustomed to seeing during presidential elections often miss the nuances of how political views have gradually changed within states. The Washington Post attempts to remedy that with a visualization (above) showing how every county in the United States has voted versus the national average during the past half century:

The redder the red, the more Republican the county voted than the rest of the country. The bluer the blue, the more Democratic it voted. In 1960, 1968 and 1992, there are some counties that were a flat red. They voted against the Democratic winner and for third-party candidates. (Harry Byrd, George Wallace and Ross Perot, respectively.)

By far the most interesting thing about this animation is how the density of the colors increases. In the late 1980s, most counties were fairly bipartisan. By 2000, there are a lot of very strong red counties — a trend that increases. Keep an eye, too, on Appalachia. Until 2008, it's a pale blue. Then it quickly grows red.


One benefit of this approach is that it allows us to gauge the pace and extent to which states are shifting in their political orientations. The map, for instance, suggests that contrary to conventional wisdom Georgia is unlikely to turn blue any time soon. But keep an eye on Mississippi. In 1960, most Mississippi counties didn't pledge electors to the Democrats. In 1964, the state strongly favored Republican Barry Goldwater. By comparison, the margin of opposition to President Obama versus Mitt Romney pales. The state voted much more Democratically in 2012 than in 1964 — even though it went for the Republican.

You can take a closer look at the data, using interactive maps at the Washington Post website.

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