Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Electoral College Map (6/25/20)

Update for June 25.

Changes (June 25)
WisconsinToss Up BidenLean Biden
FHQ has been updating its Electoral College projection for a little more than a week now and a typical day has been a poll here, a poll there or maybe a release of a series of battleground state surveys. Today was a little different. Today there were two to three surveys released for the six states -- Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- that many view at the most competitive battlegrounds for the fall election.

Only, today none of them really looked all that much like battlegrounds. Not from the Siena College/ NYT Upshot, not from Hodas and Associates and not from Redfield and Wilton Strategies. There simply was no good news in any of the 15 state-level polls released today for President Trump. And if one were to cling to anything resembling good news for the president it would be that the former Vice President Biden was not above 50 percent in all of the polls. But Biden was above or approaching a majority of support in most of them. That is no enviable position to be in if one is an incumbent president seeking reelection.

And while the raft of new survey data did not alter the topline Electoral College tally here at FHQ, the collective polling did stretch out the margins across the board in all six states, all of which (but Michigan) were already shaded in light blue Biden toss up colors. But now, Wisconsin has slipped into Lean Biden territory on the strength of recent polling that has shown the lead there close to 10 points. The FHQ average there continues to run behind that level, but is a healthy Biden +5.47 points right now.

In fact, here is where all six stand:
Arizona: Biden +3.66
Florida: Biden +3.72
Michigan: Biden +7.45
North Carolina: Biden +1.91
Pennsylvania: Biden +4.59
Wisconsin: Biden +5.47

Now again, in most cases, those margins are likely a bit closer than some other projections/forecasts out there. But allow FHQ a chance to reiterate a point (from past cycles) that has been neglected to this point in the discussions around here. The averages here are weighted based on when they were in the field. A more recent poll carries a greater weight than a dated survey. But it is still an average and the more polling there is in a state, the more insulated it can be to rapid changes. Alternatively, a state with fewer polls may jump around a bit if the survey work that has been done there is more erratic.

And sure, the states listed above are the most frequently surveyed, and it can take a lot to move the needle. That is what one has seen with all the polling today: a number of big margin polls nudged Biden's support in those states a little more than might otherwise have been the case on a more "normal" polling day. But if one stops in here daily to see a lot of changes, one may leave disappointed. It is not that they do not happen, but that they tend to be more sporadic, but meaningful. When a frequently polled battleground state shifts categories or alters the Electoral College tally at FHQ, it typically means something, that a trend has been confirmed.

Biden, then, has leads across these states that are bigger than they were, sure, but they are also pretty durable.

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 CD2-1
NE CD1-1
ME CD1-1
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 Pennsylvania (Biden's toss up states up to the Keystone state), 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 New Hampshire
 is the state where Biden crosses the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election, the tipping point state for the former vice president. But because the line between New Hampshire and Pennsylvania creates an Electoral College tie (269-269), Pennsylvania is the tipping point state for Trump. It is where the president surpasses 270 electoral votes. Collectively, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania are the tipping point states.

Yes, Wisconsin pushed into the Lean Biden category on the map, but there were changes elsewhere in how the race is tracked here at FHQ. For starters, there was enough of a shake up among the Biden toss ups because of these polls that there is no longer just one tipping point state. There are now two -- New Hampshire and Pennsylvania -- because Biden or Trump would need both to crest above 270 electoral votes. If both got just the one closest to their coalition of states, then the Electoral College would end in a tie. [Yes, that Biden has a slight edge in Nebraska's 2nd district is important in that calculation.] But it should be said that both New Hampshire and Pennsylvania are now on the Watch List below, much closer to changing to Lean Biden states than seeing Trump pull them into his column. And again, Biden at this point has a significant cushion that may serve him well down the stretch should there be any contraction across the country as election day approaches.

Not only did the Watch List add Pennsylvania today, but Wisconsin is newly on there as well. The trajectory of recent change in the Badger state is running away from any shift back into the toss up category. Maine also drifted onto the Watch List based not on new polling but how other states around it have changed. The Pine Tree state is now within a point of moving into the Strong Biden category.

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 Lean Biden
to Strong Biden
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
from Toss Up Biden
to Lean Biden
South Carolina
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
from Strong Biden
to Lean Biden
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up 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 (6/24/20)

The Electoral College Map (6/23/20)

The Electoral College Map (6/22/20)

No comments: