Resource Spotlight: CQ Voting and Elections Collections

With only one week to go until the extraordinarily contentious 2020 general election, CQ Voting and Elections Collections (CQ VEC) allows curious minds to easily dig into key aspects of past American elections. CQ VEC pulls together local and national data on campaigns, elections (including SCOTUS), political parties, voters, and demographics into statistical, analytical, and descriptive reports. You can also manipulate the raw data into dynamic, customizable (and exportable) reports. Coverage includes 1789-present (president); 1968-present (gubernatorial, senate, house). 

CQ VEC Homepage

While there is a search bar in the top right corner of the homepage that will pull results from across the entire database, there are also 5 menu tabs that categorically slice subject content from data reporting. Under “Browse Topics” you’ll find the highest level categories of all the content available: Campaign and Election Process; Congressional Elections; Gubernatorial Elections; Political Parties; Presidential Elections; and Voters and Demographics. These headings further breakdown into lists of all related content and is a good way to explore what’s available. The “Election Results” tab allows a user to pull results from specific presidential, gubernatorial, house, or senatorial elections. The results can be limited by keyword, election type, region, and year, and the data will breakdown to the county and district levels if reviewing state election results.

By clicking into “Compare Data,” you can use the tools to profile candidates, identify race trends, and see changes in party dominance over time. For each candidate, including third-party candidates, the report will include which office they ran for, the number and percentage of votes received, and whether they ran as an incumbent or challenger. You can also see party affiliation changes. Vote counts by party, office, and area as well as elections with open seats, landslide elections and close races, and more can be found in the race trends data. Party dominance reports will show changes in power over time with voter breakouts down to the district level. Pulling these reports takes only a few seconds, which is incredible given how much historical data is being sifted, and layering the insights each report reveals provides a powerful  vehicle for making analytical deductions on various, pre-defined datasets.

Run your own data reports under “Download Data”

What if you want to customize your own choice of data? Under the “Download Data” tab, you can choose from election type, office, level of detail, political parties, and years to pull 10 years of raw data. Once the report is pulled within the database, it can be exported to Excel in a click. The last tab, “Research Tools,” features encyclopedia articles defining and explaining election terminology, concepts, and historical developments (see Watershed Elections, for example). Also included are Election Reports, brief but heavily informative articles written by CQ analysts covering historical developments (see Supreme Court’s Shifting Views on Voting Rights) through contemporary issues (see The Electoral Process Under Fire: Voting by Mail). Biographies, Facts & Figures sheets, and historic documents (see Governor Palin and Senator Biden in the Vice Presidential Debate, Oct. 2, 2008) and primary sources like transcripts of addresses are a few of the other categories of materials available under “Research Tools.”

For those seeking visualized data, national general election maps from 1824 – 2012 are available, as are state maps with county boundaries for presidential, gubernatorial, and Senate elections from 1980 to present, and state maps with district boundaries for House elections beginning in 1998. After selecting the type of election and year, a color-coded national map will appear with voting results displayed by winning political party. By rolling over any given state, a pop up will appear with a detailed breakout of each candidate’s results. By clicking any given state, a state map will appear and the detailed pop up will now include the local results of each county.

One major drawback about CQ is the extended delay in publishing to ensure data integrity. While there are articles as recent as late September 2020 to be sure, there is also a lengthy process of data collection, standardization, and reconciliation that CQ experts undertake after the results of an election have been certified. If not for this rigorous adherence to data uniformity, the offered data reporting would not be comparable. Additionally, the staggering amount of variance in electoral processes from state to state also means states certify and release official election results at different times, further contributing to a publishing delay.  According to CQ VEC’s 2020 Primary and General Elections Data Publication Schedule, “all 2020 primary and general elections should be up by August 2021.” Some will be released before then, but because it will be nearly a year delay for the 2020 election, this resource best serves historical election data research purposes.

To see CQ Voting and Elections Collections in action, check out this video tutorial. Questions about this or any NU resources? Contact us at law-reference@law.northwestern.edu for help.

Clinical Services Librarian

Posted in Resource Spotlight, Uncategorized
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