President Barack Obama has been elected twice by a coalition that reflects the diversity of America. Republicans have struggled to win with ever-higher percentages of the shrinking share of the population that is white men — “a Mad Men party in a Modern Family world,” in the words of one strategist.
But at America’s founding, only white men could vote, and the franchise has only slowly expanded to include people of color, women, and — during the Vietnam War — people under 21. These maps show how American politics would have looked in that undemocratic past.
2. Map 1: 1850
Before 1870, only white men could vote. Here’s how the election would have looked before the 15th Amendment.
3. Map 2: 1870
From 1870 to 1920, only men could vote. Under that scenario, the electoral map would have looked something like this.
4. Map 3: 1920
While women’s suffrage passed in 1920, there were still huge impediments to minorities to vote during that period, for instance in the form of poll taxes (only finally outlawed by the 24th Amendment in 1964). So here’s a version of the map that shows only white voters, men and women.
5. Map 4: 1970
After the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971, young voters became a much more important part of the electorate. This map shows the 2012 results just among voters older than 24.
6. Map 5: The Actual Election
And here’s how 2012 actually played out.
Maps use the exit poll data available on CNN.com. 2012 presidential exit polls did not occur in AK, AR, DE, DC, GA, HI, ID, KY, LA, NE, ND, OK, RI, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, WV, WY. Data for those states without exit polls was extrapolated from regional demographic voting patterns.
Note: an earlier version of one map included incorrect markings for three states.
Thanks to BuzzFeed’s data scientist Ky Harlin and our information designer, Jane Kelly, for pulling together the data and creating these maps.