European Elections: which colors for which party?

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Inspired by Lisa Charlotte Rost‘s article titled Election reporting: Which color for which party?, I decided to take a look at color assignments for ed to European Parliament Groups as they are featured in the press. While European elections get less coverage than the US elections or national-level elections in Europe, they increasing in importance from one election cycle to the other.

Before actually talking about how these groups are represented, it is good to understand how European elections work:

Every 5 years, the member states of the European Union hold elections to send a number of representatives to the European Parliament. Since these MEPs belong to different national political parties, they band together in groups that are similar ideologically, as doing so helps them to better coordinate politically, as well as it being useful in getting subsidies and places in various committees of the EP.

The Colors

So we’re going to look at the groups as they existed right around the 2014 elections, since we can get a wide range of presentations from multiple European media sources at roughly the same time. In keeping with Lisa’s article, we can see below the color assignments of these Groups both by the media source (on the right side) and on a color wheel, clustered by group (on the left):

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Click on the image for a larger version

What we see first and foremost is that there is surprising coherence in the color choices, even though there the publications span multiple languages, and even includes an example from a site in far away Japan.

This coherence, I suspect,  might be the result of two factors:

  1. A convergence in time, as some earlier examples seem to suggest a lot less coherence in color choice (like the 1999 example from the Economist at the end).
  2. A sort of normative power of official charts put out by the European Parliament website, for example the first two lines in the chart (a lot of online publications just chose to use those)

National ‘flavours’

One interesting aspect is that sometimes color choices seem to be influenced by national conventions with regards to the parties that make up those groups. For example:

• SD is pink in some French sites, because PS, the French socialist party within the group, is often shown as pink on the national level
• EPP is black in one German example (CDU, the biggest EPP member from

Germany is traditionally shown as black, as is the Austrian ÖVP)
• EFDD is purple in 2 British examples, even though the group logo is turquoise. That’s because UKIP, the main party of the group is associated in the UK with the color purple

NationalColors

The fixed and the still evolving

When it comes to the groups themselves, we can see that some groups have clearly occupied certain colors. The liberal ALDE is always yellow (a color traditionally associated with liberalism) and the Greens-EFA group is, well, green.

The left is also pretty consistent in its use of red, as well as the distribution of light – for center-left SD – versus dark red – for the far-left GUE/NGL, thus marking ideological intensity.

The same cannot be said of the right side of the spectrum, where we sometimes have 3 groups using hues of blue, albeit the 3rd group, the EFDD, is shown pretty consistently in turquoise, and if not, some other, non-blue hue, like purple, orange (?) or brown. Thus we shall focus on the other two groups: the center-right EPP and the conservative ECR.

Here, the meaning of the intensity of the color is not yet settled, so we have two competing situations:

• EPP light blue / ECR dark : thus intensity showing degree of ideological intensity, similar to what we saw on the left side of the spectrum. Or…
• EPP dark blue / ECR light : the more frequent case, where intensity correlates with importance of the group, or to put it differently, with its electoral weight, the EPP being easily the larger of the two.

And last, but not least, the “Non-Inscrit” group (NI), which is just a fancy way of saying ‘the group of those outside groups’ are in shades of grey, a color often used in charts to mark the ‘Others’ category, although the occasional use of brown could be explained by the presence of many far-right parties in this group (hinting at “brown-shirts” I presume).

This article is part of a study for a later cartographic project.

Colorwheels done in python/matplotlib, the rest in Inkscape.

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