Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Electoral College Map (6/23/20)

Update for June 23.

Election day is just 19 weeks away, and the state of the presidential race through the broad lens of the Electoral College looks like it did a week ago when these updates debuted. The state-level polls through the FHQ graduated weighted average continues to show an electoral vote tally favoring former Vice President Joe Biden. And neither the steady trickle of survey releases over the last week nor today's new Texas poll have done anything to change that.

Under the surface there have been some changes, but there just has not been enough polling to significantly alter the course of the race. Florida became and has stayed the tipping point state and Minnesota, on the weight of one new poll (and likely an outlier at that), shifted from a Biden Toss Up to a Strong Biden state.

That is really it in the first week of these projections updates. It is not that any of that is without consequence, it is just that those consequences have been fairly limited at the outset.

Polling quick hits:
Public Policy Polling has now surveyed the Lone Star state twice this month, and those are the only two polls conducted in Texas completely within the month of June. The earlier poll found the race between Biden and President Donald Trump tied, but Biden's support has trailed off some in the state since then while Trump has held steady. And if one includes the PPP survey in Texas from April, then there is a bit of a pattern: the race has moved from a one point Biden edge in late April to a deadlock in early June to a two point Trump advantage as the month nears its end. Yes, that could just as easily be statistical noise across a group of surveys from one pollster, but it also may not be.

The bottom line through all of the Texas polling in 2020 to this point is that Trump enjoys a lead, but a consistently small one. This latest PPP survey overlays pretty cleanly on top of where the FHQ average has the race in the Lone Star state: basically Trump +2. Although, the poll has both candidates running a little less than a point ahead of their average shares of support.

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.

But this was one of those polls that maintains the status quo. Any survey that comes in essentially mimicking the average -- weighted or not -- will tend to do that. Needless to say, then, the Texas poll did little to shake things up here at FHQ. Texas stays in the group of Trump Toss Ups kept its spot at the bottom of the middle column in the Electoral College Spectrum. But the poll did ever so slightly nudge the average margin there up to nearly two points. Texas remains a state much closer than it has been in many cycles of the recent past, but still one that is lodged in the Republican column for now.

And if Texas is a state that is (and stays) close, then that is troubling sign for Trump and his reelection hopes. To have to expend resources defending Texas -- should it come to that -- is going to make it that much harder to go on offense in states the president carried four years ago. And there are actually quite a few states shaded in light blue above where the president's campaign will have to play defense and not offense. Six of the eight states in the Biden toss up category were Trump states in 2016.

But again, there are 19 weeks to go in this race and much can and will happen. The map may not stay this way throughout.

**There were no changes to either the tipping point state (Florida) above on the Spectrum or to the Watch List below. The new Texas poll moved the Lone Star state away from its most proximate category change. It was and is closer to becoming a Biden toss up rather than Lean Trump state at this point.

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.

Related posts:
The Electoral College Map (6/22/20)

The Electoral College Map (6/20/20)

The Electoral College Map (6/19/20)

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