Monday, August 17, 2020

The Electoral College Map (8/17/20)

Update for August 17.

On the day the Democratic National Convention is set to virtually gavel in President Trump got some fairly decent news from a trio of battleground state polls, states he will need in any path to 270 electoral votes. And with some of the talk shifting to the prospect of a tightening race, it is these states -- Georgia, North Carolina and Texas -- that are among the most worth watching. All three are traditionally red states in presidential races over last generation, but all three have been among the most competitive states throughout the summer of 2020. And while evidence of the race between Trump and Biden drawing closer is not exactly clear nationally or in other states, it has been clearer in these three states in the south over the last month or so. That is meaningful, but it would only be a start for the president. Winning these states in the rank ordering of states depicted below on the Electoral College Spectrum would not quite bring him within 50 electoral votes of 270.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 47, Biden 45):
In the Peach state, Landmark Communications was in the field for the first time in 2020 and found Trump up by a couple of points. And that really is par for the course in Georgia polling. It has been a state where the pair have traded leads in polls dating back a few months now. Georgia, then, is the weak link in the thesis above. The evidence of a tightening is not as clear there as has more recently been the case in North Carolina and Texas. What is more, this poll lands quite close to the mark if said mark is the average share each candidate has in the Peach state here at FHQ. As of now, that stands at Trump 46.1 to Biden's 45.8. Georgia is less tightened than it is tight.

North Carolina
(Trump 47, Biden 47):
Further north in the Tar Heel state, the latest ECU poll found the president and former vice president knotted at 47 percent each. This, too, is probably less a departure from the average poll in North Carolina than meet the eye. There have now been four polls conducted by ECU since February and neither candidate has led by more than three points in any of them. Biden had the edge in the last one in June, but his margin then was just a point. So while the progression since that last poll in June has been in Trump's direction, this is a margin tightening at best. However, this poll represents the highest either candidate has been in an ECU survey of the state in 2020. And that gain has come not at the expense of "undecided" but rather from "other." Other candidates with support in previous polls saw that drop off since June. Undecided remained unchanged.

(Trump 48, Biden 41):
Over in Texas, three of the last five polls in the field there have shown Trump up by five or more points. That includes this YouGov survey done on behalf of the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation. And while the president has been around as high as 48 percent in other Texas polls, this 41 percent share Biden claimed in the survey is the lowest he has been in a poll of the Lone Star state since a Data for Progress survey had the former vice president at 40 percent way back in January. Trump is running ahead of his FHQ average by a point in this poll, but Biden is over four points behind his average in it. Take that for what it is worth. Does that low share mean this is an outlier? Perhaps, but one should also wait to see the trajectory of future Texas polls first.

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
(273 | 286)
(302 | 265)
(308 | 236)
(319 | 230)
NE CD1-1
(334 | 219)
ME CD2-1
(353 | 204)
ME CD1-1
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 plus the Pennsylvania), he would have 286 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 Pennsylvania
 is the state where Biden crosses the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election, the tipping point state.

There may be some directional evidence in these three states that the race is tightening, but it is still pretty slim. All three remain close at FHQ, but Texas slipped a little further away from the partisan line; not enough to shift its position on the Spectrum above but in terms of an average margin there approaching Trump +2. Texas and North Carolina are now about equidistant from the partisan line separating each candidate's coalitions of states at this point. Both, however, are moving in the president's direction in recent polling. Where there was more distinct movement on the Spectrum was from Georgia. The new poll was enough to again push the Peach state past Iowa on the Spectrum, leaving the Hawkeye state behind as the most competitive of states favoring Trump.

The Watch List below remains the same. The 13 states and districts listed are the ones most likely to make any changes upon the introduction of new polling data. And yes, underpolled Nevada joins that group as well. All are well worth keeping an eye on.

There were no new polls from Nevada today.

Days since the last Nevada poll was in the field: 109.

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 Toss Up Biden
to Lean Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Strong Biden
to Lean Biden
Maine CD2
from Toss Up Biden
to Toss Up Trump
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Toss Up Trump
to Lean Trump
Nebraska CD2
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
from Toss Up Biden
to Toss Up Trump
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
South Carolina
from Lean Trump
to Toss Up 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 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 (8/15/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/14/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/13/20)

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