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Trump had 200k fewer donors in this period of the 2024 presidential campaign than in 2020
Trump had 200k fewer donors in this period of the 2024 presidential campaign than in 2020

Image: Screenshot, Financial Times



Trump’s Disappearing Donors, Tracking the Mars Rover, and the Ongoing Wars in Gaza and Ukraine

Two years of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the conflict between Israel and Hamas entering its fifth month, and elections all around the world — these are some of the topics that appeared again and again as we curated this week’s column of the best data journalism around the world, which analyzed the period from February 12 – 25. This week we also highlight pieces on artificial intelligence and its ability to forecast the weather, the trajectory of the Perseverance rover on Mars, and the new president of Argentina’s tweets.

Destruction of Ukraine

Image: Screenshot, IStories

On February 24th, the war between Russia and Ukraine entered its third year, with no prospects for peace. To show the consequences of the war in Ukrainian cities once home to thousands of people, the exiled Russian investigative outlet IStories, in partnership with analysts from Vertical 52 and journalists from Germany’s Tagesspiegel, used satellite images to analyze the scale of destruction in the three Ukrainian cities most damaged during the Russian occupation: Severodonetsk, Bakhmut, and Mariupol. The latter, where more than half-a-million people once lived, has become a symbol of the destruction of Ukrainian cities. To many, its reconstruction is a propaganda project by the Russian authorities who now occupy the region. To determine the scale of damage to Mariupol’s buildings, Vertical 52 evaluated radar satellite data from before and after combat operations, identifying changes to the Earth’s surface. Earlier in February, Human Rights Watch produced its own exhaustive look at the impact of Russia’s attack and occupation of Mariupol.

See also this visual explanation from the South China Morning Post, which shows how Ukrainian forces have adopted a more defensive strategy this year, building trenches and other defenses, exploring the conditions of Ukrainian terrain, and assessing the long-range weapons present in the arsenal of both sides of the battle.

EU Voters Abstaining

Image: Screenshot, Divergente

What are the risks to democracy when citizens forgo their right to vote? The Portuguese digital magazine Divergente has been working on this question since 2021, and has now released an overview of voting abstention in the European Union over the last 50 years. To make this standout interactive, the team analyzed electoral data and demographic and socioeconomic indicators from EU member states at national and local levels. Readers can filter for issues such as inequality, rates of higher education, and salary ranges, and correlate this data with abstention rates. Among the conclusions are that a quarter of EU voters do not participate in any type of election, and that almost half do not go to the polls to choose representatives for the European Parliament. France is the country with the highest abstention rates. In the coming weeks, electoral data will be published to identify the 10 districts where people vote the least in each of the EU member states.

Exploring a Suspected Hamas Tunnel in Gaza

Image: Screenshot, NYT

The war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza also appears to be far from over. In November last year, the Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest in Gaza, became the center of attention after Israeli forces seized and occupied it. At the time, Israeli authorities released a video of a tunnel that they said was located under the hospital, and pointed to the location as the center of operations for Hamas leaders. Hospital staff and Hamas denied it. To evaluate the allegations, The New York Times created a 3D model of the part of the tunnel visible in the video and obtained and analyzed confidential documents and images from the Israeli secret services. According to the Times, the evidence suggested that Hamas staged personnel inside the hospital, stored weapons there, and maintained a reinforced tunnel beneath the complex. But the Times report noted that the evidence provided fell short of verifying earlier claims by the Israeli military that the hospital housed five underground complexes and that it served as a command-and-control center for Hamas.

Argentine President’s Tweets

Image: Screenshot, La Nación

The excessive use of social media apps such as X (formerly Twitter) as a communication tool seems to be a trend among right-wing politicians, including former US President Donald Trump and former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. We are now witnessing something similar from Argentina’s new president, Javier Milei, an economist by training, who was already an active user of social networks before being elected to the Casa Rosada, as Argentina’s seat of government is known.

According to the Argentine newspaper La Nación, Milei’s Tweets were a tool that helped him win the presidency. Since taking office on December 10, 2023, Milei has used X daily, mainly at night, and often in the early hours of the morning, the newspaper notes. For this interactive piece, the team analyzed Milei’s Tweets over the two months since he took office. During this period he posted 4,364 times — an average of almost 73 messages per day — and gave around 14,000 ‘likes,’ most of them for Tweets praising his management or criticizing his opponents.

Rover’s Path Across Mars

Image: Screenshot, The Washington Post

The Perseverance rover is three years into its exploration of the Jezero Crater on the planet Mars. Since successfully landing on the red planet in 2021, the rover has covered more than 15 miles — exploring the site that NASA scientists believe may once have been a lake — and collected dozens of environmental samples. The Washington Post mapped the rover’s journey and, to give the reader an idea of the distance covered, also applied the trajectory to a map of Washington, DC. Perseverance is NASA’s fifth rover to cross the Martian landscape and carried the US space agency’s first helicopter, nicknamed Ingenuity, into space to test the feasibility of flying on planets. Originally designed to fly just five times, the chopper surprised researchers by making 72 flights before suffering a damaged rotor. The Post team used data and images provided by NASA, the US Geological Survey, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.

Does Donald Trump Have a Donor Problem?

Trump Biden Haley donor comparison 2023 campaign donations

Though Trump had fewer donors than four years earlier, he still had more than incumbent President Joe Biden. Biden, however, raised more money than Trump during this period. Image: Screenshot, Financial Times

The Financial Times dug into the data to find out how would-be presidential candidate Donald Trump and incumbent President Joe Biden are doing in raising support for their White House campaigns. They charted how much money both candidates have raked in for the upcoming 2024 election, compared to 2020. Their findings show that Trump, embattled by a series of legal cases, started with about 200,000 fewer donors than his campaign four years ago, which the FT says raises “questions about his fundraising machine just as legal bills eat into his war chest.” President Biden had fewer donors than Trump in the second half of last year, but has raised more money, they found. Also interesting this week: A graphic breakdown from 538 of why candidates who are unlikely to win still run for election.

Where Democracy is Most at Risk

Democracy at Risk, The Economist

Image: Screenshot, The Economist

It’s a bumper year for elections, with polls taking place across the globe from India to the US, Mexico to Rwanda. But The Economist Intelligence Unit’s democracy index shows that only 43 of the more than 70 elections taking place in 2024 are expected to be fully free and fair. To dig into this, The Economist decided to look into the places where democracy is most at risk, mapping authoritarian and hybrid regimes alongside countries classified as flawed and full democracies. This year, Norway, New Zealand, and Iceland topped the democracy table — a ranking based on the strength of a country’s democratic practices — while Afghanistan, Myanmar, and North Korea came in at the bottom. The team also created regional breakdowns — giving a full panorama of which countries are embracing democracy, and which are backsliding towards authoritarianism.

Who Made the Batteries in Your Electric Vehicle?

Image: Screenshot, Bloomberg

It has long been politically astute for politicians to go big on their support for the US’s domestic car industry. And now, President Joe Biden is hoping to create a US-centered electric vehicle supply chain. The problem? The industry’s dependence, up to now, on the use of cheap, Chinese-made batteries. Drawing on supply chain data, detailed customs records, and interviews with executives and officials, Bloomberg dug into China’s dominance of the e-car battery supply chain to explore how changes in US policy are impacting the status quo, with a particularly close look at how electric car manufacturer Tesla sources its material. The story is part of a series on Western efforts to create a China-free network of suppliers.

Flipping Seats in a UK Election

Guardian, 148 Conservative Seats at Risk to Flip in UK Election

Image: Screenshot, the Guardian

Although a date has not yet been set, the UK is expected to hold a general election later this year. Current polls indicate that there will be a shift in support away from the governing Conservative (or Tory) Party, towards the left-leaning Labour Party. The Guardian ran an analysis to show which Conservative seats are most at risk, charting and listing the areas most likely to swap allegiances. Overall, by combining results from the 2019 election with current polls, the Guardian believes 148 Conservative seats are at risk to Labour — which would make a big dent in the number of MPs from the ruling party sitting in the House of Commons (currently 348). The team also created an explainer of “electoral arithmetic,” or why some votes count more than others for Labour.

Can Al Help Us Predict Extreme Weather?

Image: Screenshot, Vox

Traditional weather forecasts are based on data collected from satellites, weather stations, and buoys, positioned all around the world to measure variables like temperature, wind speed, and humidity. All that data is in turn interpreted by the big weather centers, and on a smaller level, local meteorologists. But according to this video by Vox, part of the outlet’s AI Explained series, “the AI revolution has reached meteorology,” with AI models trained on 40 years of historical weather data now able to rival traditional forecasting methods. While there are still flaws — in the AI’s ability to predict the intensity of a hurricane, for example — there are also opportunities.

Ana Beatriz Assam is GIJN’s Portuguese editor and a Brazilian journalist. She worked for the newspaper O Estado de São Paulo as a freelancer, mainly covering stories with data journalism. She also works for the Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism (Abraji) as assistant coordinator of journalism courses.



Laura Dixon GIJN Associate EditorLaura Dixon is an associate editor at GIJN and a freelance journalist from the UK. She has reported from Colombia, the US, and Mexico, and her work has been published by The Times, The Washington Post, and The Atlantic. She has received fellowships from the IWMF and the Pulitzer Center.

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