Monday, June 22, 2020

The Electoral College Map (6/22/20)

Update for June 22.

After polling releases took a day off on Father's Day, a couple of new surveys greeted the start of the work week on Monday. Both strayed a bit -- and in different directions -- from the collective picture assembled from recent polling across the country. Neither, however, fundamentally altered the outlook either on the state level or in the tally of electoral votes for Joe Biden or Donald Trump.

Polling quick hits:
States with competitive Senate races in 2020 get not only Senate polls, but tend to churn out a steady stream of presidential race data as well. And that happens whether the presidential race is close or not. Think of all those Brown-Warren polls of Massachusetts from 2012 that nonetheless continually showed Obama well ahead of former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the presidential race. That is what is likely to happen in Alabama this year with Doug Jones representing the one Democratic-held seat most likely to flip in November. Any polls that come out will no doubt also have a test of the presidential trial heat as well and all a very likely to show a healthy lead for Trump.

That said, the internal statewide poll of Alabama from the Jones campaign found a presidential race within 15 points, a margin that passes for "close" in Alabama. But in all honesty, Alabama is not going to be a state that is going to be much closer than that or even anything other than ruby red in November. Nevertheless, the survey finds Biden under 40 points but running five points ahead of Hillary Clinton's pace set in the 2016 race in the Yellowhammer state. But the eye-opening number in this poll -- and again it is an internal Democratic poll -- is that Trump is barely cracking the 50 percent mark in the state, a nearly 10 point decline from the share of support he enjoyed in Alabama in 2016. If Trump is only garnering 53 percent in Alabama in November, then there are a lot of states that were red in 2016 turning blue in 2020.

The race in Alabama is unlikely to get to that point unless there is a significant cratering of Trump support. That does not seem all that probable.

While Alabama may be one of those uncompetitive states to get at least regular updates in the presidential race throughout the campaign, that is not a worry in Michigan, the most surveyed state in 2020. After a few recent polls found Biden up double digits in the Wolverine state, the last two surveys have shown a much tighter race. The latest is from Trafalgar Group with Biden up only one point.

However, the answer (or the margin really), as FHQ often says, is probably somewhere in the middle of those two sets of polls. And the FHQ graduated weighted average in Michigan is certainly there, placing the state firmly in the Lean Biden category. Does that make this poll an outlier? Well, both candidates are running behind their parties' share of support in the state in 2016. And that is not exactly a finding consistent with the 7 plus point average shift toward the Democrats that has been borne out of the 2020 polls to this point here at FHQ. It also does not jibe with overall trend that we have seen: Biden running ahead of 2016 and Trump running behind. The opposite is true here.

Come to your own conclusion on whether that constitutes an outlier. Yet, one thing is clear, Michigan remained a Biden state with a roughly 6.5 point lead on average.

NOTE: A description of the methodology behind the graduated weighted average of 2020 state-level polling that FHQ uses for these projections can be found here.

The Electoral College Spectrum1
NE CD1-1
ME CD1-1
NE CD2-1
ME CD2-1
NE CD3-1
1 Follow the link for a detailed explanation on how to read the Electoral College Spectrum.

2 The numbers in the parentheses refer to the number of electoral votes a candidate would have if he or she won all the states ranked prior to that state. If, for example, Trump won all the states up to and including Florida (Biden's toss up states up to Florida), he would have 289 electoral votes. Trump's numbers are only totaled through the states he would need in order to get to 270. In those cases, Biden's number is on the left and Trumps's is on the right in bold italics.

To keep the figure to 50 cells, Washington, DC and its three electoral votes are included in the beginning total on the Democratic side of the spectrum. The District has historically been the most Democratic state in the Electoral College.

3 Florida
 is the state where Biden crosses the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election, the tipping point state.

No, neither poll did much to shake things up too much. The Alabama poll did draw in the margin there and pushed it four cells toward the partisan line on the Electoral College Spectrum above. But the state remains in the far right column, deep in the coalition of Trump states. Michigan, despite the tight margin in the Trafalgar poll, did not budge on the Spectrum and the gap did not close enough to bring the average much closer to pushing Michigan onto the Watch List below.

Florida retains its position as the tipping point state and Montana, even without a new survey, slipped off the Watch List. The decay of older polls nudged the margin there below 9 points in favor of Trump, but kept the Treasure state on the upper end of the Lean Trump states.

But with 134 days until the election, the Electoral College stuck at Biden 352, Trump 186.

NOTE: Distinctions are made between states based on how much they favor one candidate or another. States with a margin greater than 10 percent between Biden and Trump are "Strong" states. Those with a margin of 5 to 10 percent "Lean" toward one of the two (presumptive) nominees. Finally, states with a spread in the graduated weighted averages of both the candidates' shares of polling support less than 5 percent are "Toss Up" states. The darker a state is shaded in any of the figures here, the more strongly it is aligned with one of the candidates. Not all states along or near the boundaries between categories are close to pushing over into a neighboring group. Those most likely to switch -- those within a percentage point of the various lines of demarcation -- are included on the Watch List below.

The Watch List1
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
Nebraska CD1
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
Nebraska CD2
from Toss Up Biden
to Lean Biden
New Hampshire
from Toss Up Biden
to Lean Biden
from Toss Up Biden
to Toss Up Trump
South Carolina
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
from Strong Biden
to Lean Biden
1 Graduated weighted average margin within a fraction of a point of changing categories.

Methodological Note: In past years, FHQ has tried some different ways of dealing with states with no polls or just one poll in the early rounds of these projections. It does help that the least polled states are often the least competitive. The only shortcoming is that those states may be a little off in the order in the Spectrum. In earlier cycles, a simple average of the state's three previous cycles has been used. But in 2016, FHQ strayed from that and constructed an average swing from 2012 to 2016 that was applied to states. That method, however, did little to prevent anomalies like the Kansas poll the thad Clinton ahead from biasing the averages. In 2016, the early average swing in the aggregate was  too small to make much difference anyway. For 2020, FHQ has utilized an average swing among states that were around a little polled state in the rank ordering on election day in 2016. If there is just one poll in Delaware in 2020, for example, then maybe it is reasonable to account for what the comparatively greater amount of polling tells us about the changes in Connecticut, New Jersey and New Mexico. Or perhaps the polling in Iowa, Mississippi and South Carolina so far tells us a bit about what may be happening in Alaska where no public polling has been released. That will hopefully work a bit better than the overall average that may end up a bit more muted.

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