FiveThirtyEight's 2020 Election Forecast by FiveThirtyEight

FiveThirtyEight has long been a leader in election modeling and forecasting. In 2020 we sought to build on our success by making the forecast most useful, understandable, and accessible to a wider range of users. Our team undertook an exhaustive design process to craft an interactive that incorporated the best elements from previous versions, but also brought a fresh eye to the challenges of working with statistically nuanced data.

To help address frequent misinterpretation, we invented new data visualization formats, such as the “ballswarm,” that effectively communicate the range of outcomes simulated in our forecast. These were noted across the journalism ecosystem and also won praise for academic data visualization practitioners. We augmented these with plain text and “robotext” descriptions of the data, in order to give lay users a clear and conceptually intuitive understanding of the model.

We also sought to increase the context and accessibility of the design. For the first time we incorporated news updates directly into the forecast, providing users with immediate updates on the state of the race. We also designed a mascot character who provides users with tips to help head off misinterpretation and teach statistical literacy. Finally, we exhaustively audited the project for accessibility standards, to ensure the widest possible range of users could access and understand the information we provide about the election.

The production of this election forecast was a massive undertaking, involving more than twenty people, and spanning more than six months. The project existed on our website as well as in various incarnations across ABC News and Apple News. It was also a signature part of our contribution to ABC’s election night experience on broadcast television.

  • Credits
    Colleen Barry (copy editing) Ryan Best (design and development) Jay Boice (development) Fabio Buonocore (illustration) Aaron Bycoffe (development and research) Micah Cohen (editing) Joey Ellis (illustration) Sarah Frostenson (editing) Christopher Groskopf (editing, project management and development) Jennifer Mason (copy editing) Dhrumil Mehta (research) Elena Mejía (development) Jasmine Mithani (design and development) Mary Radcliffe (research) Emily Scherer (art direction) Derek Shan (research) Nate Silver (forecast model and editing) Anna Wiederkehr (design and development) Julia Wolfe (development) Yuton Yuan (development)
  • Award
  • Categories
  • See more