WSU grad student’s 2016 election map zeroes into neighborhoods

By Linda Weiford, WSU News

Ryne Rohla picture

PULLMAN, Wash. – A Washington State University graduate student has created what’s believed to be the first map to burrow into the most localized voting results of the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Not only did economics student Ryne Rohla gather voting data from 175,000 precincts nationwide, but he did it on his own time, with no aid or outside funding.

By all appearances, his map-making adventure is far from over.

Sought after data

The detailed interactive map probes deeper than red and blue states, going so far as to reveal red and blue neighborhoods. (Go to:  It’s so popular that the server page crashed within an hour of being posted and Rohla continues to field requests from researchers in the U.S. and abroad to use his data.

Ryne Rohla with map
Ryne Rohla, WSU economics student and cartographer. (photo by Shelly Hanks, WSU Photo Services)

“The project satisfied my curiosity about the voting decisions made by Americans during a brief, but monumental, window of time. Also, by zooming into very local levels, the data I compiled will generate a lot of good research,” he said.

Scientists hoping to get a head start on social issues and policy research have been contacting Rohla since the map went public two months ago, he said. Institutions include Stanford University, UCLA, Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh and the University of Bristol in the UK.

Organizations ranging from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to the AARP, the advocacy group for Americans 50 and over, have also approached him, he said.

Widening gulf

Most revealing about the Rohla election map is the intensity of the nation’s town and country split, with Trump winning so handedly in rural areas and Clinton in the cities.

“While the rural/urban divide is nothing new, what is new is how much the gulf widened in this election. Even the inner suburbs swayed toward Clinton and the outer suburbs shifted toward Trump, behaving more like rural areas,” said Rohla.

Colleges go 3rd party

MAP- 2016 Country
Rohla’s interactive map depicts how hundreds of square miles of rural areas favored Trump and more centralized urban areas favored Clinton.

The map also pinpoints clusters of third-party votes among precincts where colleges are located. Green Party candidate Jill Stein performed strong near Western Washington University and the University of Oregon, California State-Chico and UC-Santa Cruz. Libertarian Gary Johnson did best near the University of Idaho, Eastern Washington University, New Mexico State and Oklahoma State.

Also clustered in university areas were write-ins for Bernie Sanders.

Red, blue and thorough

Because no single source exists for precinct-level data, Rohla sent emails, made phone calls and public record requests. The outcome of his meticulous work can be viewed online at Decision Desk HQ, a volunteer-run election data tracker that first posted the map on March 30.

Twenty minutes later, the page crashed after drawing more than 7,000 viewers, said Brandon Finnigan, the group’s founder and director.

“I think people are naturally curious about their own neighborhood and, beyond that, where they grew up, went to school, dated, hung out. The precinct-level returns gives them the sharpest imaginable view of the presidential election — a race that many are still scratching their heads over,” he said.

Rohla will be using his much sought-after data in two of his three doctoral papers at WSU, he said.


 Media contacts:

Ryne Rohla,

Linda Weiford, WSU News, 509-335-7209,