Thursday, July 23, 2020

The Electoral College Map (7/23/20)

Update for July 23.

Changes (July 23)
FloridaToss Up BidenLean Biden
PennsylvaniaLean BidenToss Up Biden
For a couple of states that have been huddled around the Lean/Toss Up line on the Biden side of the ledger, Florida and Pennsylvania marginally moving, but in opposite directions, had a fairly significant effect here at FHQ today. Not only did those shifts change the overall electoral vote calculus, but it changed the tipping point state in the order and meant that Biden would cross 270 on his Strong and Lean states alone. All six current Biden toss ups would just be insulation at this point.

Polling Quick Hits:
Florida (Biden 50, Trump 44 via St. Pete Polls | Biden 51, Trump 38 via Quinnipiac):
The Sunshine state has consistently throughout the month of July had a margin right on the edge of the Lean/Toss Up categories on the Biden side of the partisan line. The latest St. Pete Polls and Quinnipiac surveys did little to push that average from that plateau, but it did trigger an important change in Florida. What's more, the more troubling thing for President Trump, perhaps, is that Florida polling this month has more often than not had the former vice president at or above 50 percent in the state. In four of the six surveys in the field in whole or in part in July, Biden has crested above the majority threshold while Trump has remained in relative stasis in the mid-40s.

Sure, there are exceptions to those types of polls, and the Quinnipiac poll is one of them on the Trump side. This is the first time the president has dipped below 40 percent there, and this is something of an outlier on its face. But on the whole, Biden has settled in around 48 percent in the FHQ averages while Trump continues to exist in the 43 percent range. The longer that holds, the harder it is to see the president making 270. Florida is that important to Trump's chances of getting there and that is especially true when Florida is a lean to Biden.

Spry Strategies surveys:
Rather than take the ten battleground -- in the presidential and/or Senate races -- polls from Spry individually, the 30,000 foot view of all of them together may be more instructive. The one thing that immediately jumps out is that the order of the ten states is not in line with the established and relatively consistent order of states in the Electoral College Spectrum below. Here is the order in the Spry polls from strongest Trump to strongest Biden:

Kentucky: Trump +27
Montana: Trump +10
Texas: Trump +5
Michigan: Trump +4
Georgia: Trump +3
North Carolina: Trump +3
Pennsylvania: Trump +1
Wisconsin: Biden +1
Iowa: Biden +2
Arizona: Biden +5

Most of the difference between this and the FHQ Electoral College Spectrum is just polling variation and house effects, so FHQ will not dwell on it too much. Yet, what stands out are the states on the opposite side of the partisan line from where they are below. Iowa is on the Biden side when there has yet to be a poll with Biden ahead in the Hawkeye state in all of 2020. Additionally Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania are on the Trump side, counter to where each has consistently been since FHQ started these updates last month. Michigan is particularly noteworthy. Trump has led in the Wolverine state in 2020 surveys, but that has not been since early March or before and it has never been more than a couple of points. And while North Carolina and Pennsylvania have been steady Biden states, there have at least been a few Trump polls peppered into the mix. Both have also been closer than Michigan has been.

Everything else makes some sense. Kentucky is definitely the most Trump state among the group, but Arizona likely is not the most Biden. But a +5 in the Grand Canyon state is not out of the norm for the former vice president.

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
(278 | 270)
(298 | 260)
(302 | 240)
(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 Wisconsin (Biden's toss up states plus the Badger state), he would have 278 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 Wisconsin
 is the state where Biden crosses the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election, the tipping point state.

Pennsylvania shifting back into the Biden Toss Up category is not without import, but the Florida move into the Lean Biden group of states is a big deal. But it is a big deal that needs some context. On the one hand, I am fairly certain that this is the first time in the 12 years and four cycles now of doing this that Florida has been anything other than a toss up on either side of the partisan line. However, on the other hand, it should be noted that Florida is part of a group of states situated around the Lean/Toss Up line among the current Biden coalition of states that add up to 64 electoral votes. There can and likely will be a lot of shuffling among those states in the coming days and weeks. [And in light of the fact that this Quinnipiac poll is likely an outlier, the likelihood of future Florida movement is high. Still, Florida has been stubbornly camped out just under the Lean/Toss Up line for weeks.]

What can be said now that Florida is a Lean Biden state is that the former vice president is more than five points up in states that sum to 278 electoral votes. That, in a nutshell, is the importance of the Sunshine state in the electoral college calculus. With Florida a lean, it would take at least a five point shift in the president's direction to reclaim enough states and get to 270. This may be the nadir for Trump, and although there are still more than 100 days until the election, the climb is quite steep.

The other thing the Florida push into the Lean Biden category does is to rejigger the order on the Electoral College Spectrum above. And that jockeying among those states clustered around the Lean/Toss Up line uproots New Hampshire and Pennsylvania from the tipping point in the electoral college. Wisconsin now has that honor. The Badger state's ten electoral votes would put Biden over 270 with six additional states of cushion while it would get Trump to exactly 270 is he is able to claw those six Biden toss ups back and add Wisconsin.

The day's changes also brought changes to the Watch List below. Florida and Pennsylvania basically switched places on the List. Moreover, a day after Texas rejoined the List, the Spry survey pushed it back off again. But the average in the Lone Star state is just outside of one point in Trump's direction.

Finally, another bit of context to add to the Florida shift concerns Nevada and New Hampshire. Both remain underpolled at the moment, and both remain Biden Toss Ups. Without new data reflecting any recent changes in either, both will stay toss ups at FHQ. However, if those states are like others around them in the order on election day in 2016, then both are very likely leans toward Biden as well. Shift those ten electoral votes deeper into Biden territory and Florida likely becomes the tipping point state in the order.

But again, that will take the release of additional surveys.

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 Lean Biden
to Toss Up 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 Toss Up Biden
to Lean 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 (7/22/20)

The Electoral College Map (7/20/20)

The Electoral College Map (7/19/20)

Follow FHQ on TwitterInstagram and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

No comments: