Monday, August 24, 2020

The Electoral College Map (8/24/20)

Update for August 24.

Changes (August 24)
Lean Trump
Strong Trump
As the Republican Party opened their national convention in Charlotte with a unanimous roll call vote in favor of President Trump, convention week part two kicked off. And with it came a handful of state-level polls that shed more light on the state of play in a pair of the most competitive states at FHQ and another survey that drew the average in Louisiana to a more normal area given how other states have swung from 2016 to now. Let's start there.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 54, Biden 38)
Trafalgar Group's latest was a survey that was in the field in the Pelican state the weekend before the virtual Democratic National Convention and it found a race not too far from how the picture looked on election day 2016. Biden actually hit Clinton's total in the state while President Trump ran four points behind the share he received there four years ago. But those numbers are perhaps less interesting than the fact that this survey brought the swing in Louisiana to a level on par with the average swing that has been established across all states at FHQ. Trump's share there has him about six points behind his 2016 pace while Biden is a couple of points ahead of where Hillary Clinton ended up there. That eight point swing is consistent with an average swing across all state that is now at 7.65 points in the Democrats' direction. Call Trafalgar an outlier if one must, but recognize that in this case it serves as a counterbalance to last week's survey of Louisiana that was probably an outlier in the other direction.

(Biden 47, Trump 46)
In the Buckeye state, the closest state on the Biden side of the partisan line on the Electoral College Spectrum below, TargetSmart had a new poll in the field as July turned to August. The results did not differ too much from much of the polling over the same late July and August period, which is to say it showed a close race. But in this case, the poll found a slight advantage for the former vice president. Biden's margin there is +0.22 now which keeps the typical battleground squarely in battleground territory despite Trump's rather comfortable 2016 win there. And really, this poll is does not miss the, um, target by much. The average shares for each candidate (rounded) have them both at 46 percent.

(Biden 48, Trump 47)
Finally, in Texas, Public Policy Polling also has Biden up by a point. But that is close to the rosiest picture for the former vice president in polling that has been released from the Lone Star state since mid-July. That is one end of the range while Trump's recent leads there have ballooned to the mid-single digits. So it should come as no surprise that Biden is running ahead of his FHQ average in this survey while PPP has Trump right on his. Texas is close, but it is not as close as Ohio and probably best thought of as the North Carolina on Trump's side of the partisan line: a state that is close but has consistent favored one candidate over the other.

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.

Republican convention week began with a fair number of releases considering most polls would be expected to have been in the field during the weekend interregnum between conventions. That may produce some more state-level polling as the week progresses, but it likely will not be a torrent of them. And this series did little to fundamentally change things here at FHQ. Yes, Louisiana shifted back into Strong Trump territory, pushing it down a few cells deeper into the president's coalition of states and off the Watch List, but that was it. When it came to two of the closest states in the order -- Ohio and Texas -- little changed. Sure, those average margins moved, but both maintained their positions on the Spectrum close to the partisan line and Ohio continued to be among the states on the Watch List.

Since Louisiana came off the List, the number of states and districts represented fell to just 12. Those states and underpolled Nevada remain the ones to watch as new surveys are released in the coming days. They are the ones most likely to change categories.

There were no new polls from Nevada today.

Days since the last Nevada poll was in the field: 116.

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 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.

Recent posts:
One Thing About Convention Bounces

The Electoral College Map (8/22/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/21/20)

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