Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Electoral College Map (7/22/20)

Update for July 22.

After a slow polling release day on Tuesday -- only a couple of late surveys from Ohio and Pennsylvania -- there was more of a flurry of new polls today. All, including Ohio and Pennsylvania, came from battleground states. All five -- Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas -- find the presidential race within a little more than five points. Only Pennsylvania currently has an FHQ graduated weighted average margin of more than five points, placing it just barely in the Lean Biden category.

But more importantly, if Monday's update represented a reasonably positive poll day for President Trump, this one did not. Biden was ahead in all five states.

Polling Quick Hits:
Arizona (Biden 49, Trump 45):
The latest from Public Policy Polling is a survey from out of Arizona, and it is more an affirming poll than anything else. FHQ currently has the race in the Grand Canyon state at Biden 47.4 to Trump 44.1 (with the new PPP survey included). This survey is not much of a departure from that at Biden 49, Trump 45. And it is obviously consistent with the recent polling in the state.

Georgia (Biden 47, Trump 43):
If one has followed along with polling of the presidential race in the Peach state since the last week in June, one could be forgiven for ending up with a case of whiplash. It has gone from Biden +4 to Trump +3 to Biden +4 to Trump +7. The new addition today is that second Biden +4, an internal from the Ossoff campaign via Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group. Look, this one finds Biden in familiar territory in Georgia in the mid-40s. But the firm shows Trump at his nadir in the state among the world of Georgia polling in 2020. Perhaps that number improves some and Biden's advantage dissipates some if the 10 percent undecided were pushed support one candidate or the other in a follow up question. However, the Trump number, too, has tended to be in the upper range of the mid-40s. It is close in Georgia, but the range of margins has been quite wide of late.

Ohio (Biden 50, Trump 46):
It continues to boggle the mind that, as the general election winds down to 100 days until the election, there have just been seven public polls released in the Buckeye state. Now, it makes sense that, say, Michigan would be surveyed more based on the 2016 results alone. But that Ohio has been polled 32 fewer times in 2020 is saying something about a perennial midwestern battleground. Regardless of the frequency of polling in the state, it is good to have some updated information on the Buckeye state Pulse Opinion Research. But it is one that finds Biden running quite a bit higher than his graduated weighted average share of support at FHQ. He eclipses the 50 percent mark for the first time in a 2020 poll there and claims his largest lead since the first 2020 poll of the state back in March. Meanwhile, the Trump number is consistent with the other polls conducted in Ohio and is a hair above his average there. This is a good one for Biden in a state that Trump needs more than the former vice president in the hunt for 270.

Pennsylvania (Biden 51, Trump 46):
In a mark of just how close Pennsylvania is here at FHQ to the Lean/Toss Up line on the Biden side of the ledger, depending on which version of the Pulse Opinion Research survey one uses -- the one with leaners or the one without -- the Keystone state shifts back into the Biden Toss Up category. The smaller margin in the version without leaners draws the average margin in just enough to do that. But with leaners included, Pennsylvania stays a Lean Biden state at FHQ but only barely. [NOTE: FHQ always includes poll numbers with leaners when available.] The bigger picture take home here, however, is that this is the fourth of five polls conducted in the commonwealth in June and July to find Biden at or north of 50 percent. That is a troubling sign for the president at the moment. Trump's paths to 270 nearly all disappear without Pennsylvania in his column (barring a shake up in the order of states).

Texas (Biden 45, Trump 44):
At this point, any survey of the presidential race in the Lone Star state that shows a race more than a couple of points toward either of the candidates is an outlier. Of the 11 polls now conducted in Texas since the beginning of May, only three have found a race tilted more than to points toward one candidate or the other. That is close to being textbook toss up. And the latest poll of the state from Quinnipiac fits right in with that outlier hypothesis. It fits in in that it shows a small Biden edge, further confirming that Texas is, in fact, (consistently) close in 2020. And it bears repeating that if Texas is one of the closest states on election day, then given the order of states, Biden will have already wrapped up a fairly comfortable win in the electoral college. There remain, however, 104 days until election day. And contraction of that overall lead for Biden means Trump is advancing up the middle column of the Electoral College Spectrum below and peeling off current Biden Toss Up states.

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
(269 | 289)
(273 | 269)
(302 | 265)
(308 | 236)
(319 | 230)
(334 | 219)
(352 | 204)
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 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.

None of the above polls had any impact on the map. Across the board, states maintained their current positions within their present categories. Furthermore, despite the polling activity in a number of competitive states, little changed on the Electoral College Spectrum either. Perhaps, most notably, Pennsylvania and Nebraska's second congressional district switched spots, but the two remain closely positioned to one another and play a role in a potential electoral college tie scenario; one that continues to be far-fetched given the current state of the race. The only other change triggered by the addition of these Wednesday polls was that Georgia and Texas again swapped spots on the Spectrum. But as with the example above on Biden's side of the partisan line, the trade here is more visible than meaningful. For all intents and purposes, Georgia and Texas are tied, separated by a tiny fraction of a point.

Both are now back to being within a point of jumping into the Biden coalition of states. Georgia's and Texas's reemergence on the Watch List below was met with Ohio's vacating its spot on the List. The Buckeye state is now tilted more than point in Biden's direction. That certainly does not make Ohio safe for Biden, but it means that both Georgia and Texas are closer to changing hands than Ohio is. And while FHQ may repeat itself here, if the discussion in November is about Georgia, Ohio and Texas being the most competitive states, then Biden is on a glide path to 270.

A new poll in Pennsylvania did little to disrupt what has come to be commonplace in these updates: that an electoral college tie would be on the table if the race was closer and New Hampshire and Pennsylvania remain where they are in the order of states. Together they remain the tipping point states.

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
Potential Switch
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Toss Up Biden
to Lean Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Strong Biden
to Lean Biden
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Toss Up Trump
to Lean Trump
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
Nebraska CD1
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
Nebraska CD2
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
New Hampshire
from Toss Up Biden
to Lean Biden
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
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 that had 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 (7/20/20)

The Electoral College Map (7/19/20)

The Electoral College Map (7/18/20)

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