Friday, 2 November 2012

Elections resources on the web

With the elections now just a few days away, I thought I'd share a few links to useful and/or interesting websites relating to both historic and recent elections in the United States. This is a fairly random selection of sites that I have come across; feel free to share any sites I've missed in the comments!

As evidenced by our own US Elections Campaigns Archive (of which you can see some images on Flickr), US elections produce a wealth of ephemera. Unfortunately The Smithsonian has not digitised their collection, but Cornell University have a substantial archive of political Americana online, including a lot of campaign materials covering 1840-1952. More locally, the University of Maryland has digitised a collection of campaign materials donated by Professor Larry Gibson, who worked on campaigns at both state and national level from 1968 to 2008.  

Of course, campaigns are also fought on less physical media than the literature, posters, buttons and other random objects contained in such collections. The Museum of the Modern Image has a fantastic archive of more than 300 presidential campaign TV commercials from 1952 right up to the present elections, all of which can be viewed online and browsed by year, issue, and type of commercial, showing for example commercials where a candidates own words are being used against him, or which are intended to play on fears (including arguably the most famous campaign commercial of all, the 1964 "Daisy" commerical for Lyndon B Johnson). Campaigns keep up with the evolving media, and the Library of Congress has been archiving election-related websites from 2000.

Moving away from the campaign-controlled media, the Commission on Presidential Debates has a debate history section on their website, with basic information on early debates (1858, 1948, 1956), and transcripts and videos for all debates from 1960 to present. 

I've written on this blog before about Chronicling America, the Library of Congress's website for digitised historic American newspapers. As well as the digitised newspapers themselves, they provide topic pages with links directly through to selected articles, and the list of topics includes several presidential elections/campaigns: Cleveland (1892), McKinley (1896), McKinley-Roosevelt (1900), Roosevelt (1904), Taft (1908), and Wilson (1912). Chronicling America unfortunately stops in 1922, due to US copyright law, but if you are an Oxford reader interested in looking at historic elections through newspapers then we do subscribe to the electronic archives of both the New York Times and Washington Post, available through SOLO/OxLIP+. Another nice media-related resource for 19th/early 20th century elections is the Harper's Weekly Presidential Elections page, which provides digitised images of cartoons from Harper's Weekly and other similar journals from 1860-1912.

If you're more interested in the data side of things, there are a couple of useful sites which provide all sorts of voting statistics and other electoral data. Working backwards chronologically, the Roper Center's public opinion archives has a US elections collection which includes all sorts of polling data for presidential elections from 1976- (and popular vote information from 1940-2008), and for congressional elections from 1994-. The Roper Center also provide the iPoll database, available to Oxford readers via SOLO/OxLIP+, which is a hugely comprehensive database of all sorts of opinion poll data from the 1930s to the present day. You can browse iPoll by topic, and polling data for the 2012 elections is available from as recently as a few days ago. The Voting America site from the University of Richmond covers 1840-2008, and offers a whole variety of interactive maps to explore electoral data. And finally, for the really early years, A New Nation Votes from Tufts University provides a searchable collection of election returns from 1787-1825