I barely even understand this chart, but it looks pretty cool, doesn't it? It's an analysis of the Senate vote on Tom Coburn's screwball amendment to defund political science research, which failed 36-62. The dark blue and dark red are nay votes, while bright blue and bright red are yea votes. Brendan Nyhan:
Each senator is placed at their estimated ideal point in the ideological space. The diagonal cutting line, which represents the best-fitting line dividing yes from no votes in the space, indicates that the vote reflected both the primary ideological division between the parties (in this case, cutting "wasteful" government spending) and the second "social issues" dimension (feelings toward pointy-headed academics?).
Sure. I guess I'll buy that. More charts for other votes here.
Actually, though, I think I'm more interested in the placement of senators themselves. Democrats are almost all bunched into a single grouping, with only four outliers. Republicans, by contrast, are spread through considerably more space on both the economic and social dimensions. That doesn't seem intuitively right to me, but it strikes me as more complimentary toward Republicans than Democrats. So tell me again why they want to defund pointy-headed political scientists?