Thursday, August 27, 2020

The Electoral College Map (8/27/20)

Update for August 27.

President Trump will take center stage on the final night of the 2020 Republican National Convention, formally accepting the party's presidential nomination. While that may be met with some fanfare on the south lawn of the White House where the acceptance speech will be delivered, the day's new polling data did not quite meet the level of the occasion. But again, it is convention week and that is mostly to be expected. The bulk of the survey data released this week was in the field last weekend for the most part (or extended across the Democratic convention into the weekend after it) and that is very simply a quiet period on the polling front in most cycles. 2020 has been no exception.

[A rare thing for 2020.]

The one state-level poll released came out of Pennsylvania.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 49, Trump 42)
Franklin and Marshall's latest look at the state of the race in the Keystone state updates the college survey's first poll in the field last month. And as was the storyline with the polls released a day ago, the story is one of stability. Since July, Biden has lost a point and Trump gained a point. A closing of the gap by the strictest of definition, but not much beyond statistical noise in the grand scheme of things in polling of the commonwealth. The long and short of it on this survey is that it is right on Biden's FHQ average and understates Trump's average by a couple of points. As such, it is no real surprise, then, that Biden's share in this poll is right in the heart of where he has been in most Pennsylvania polling this month while Trump's is on the low end of his range.

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. The tipping point cell is shaded in yellow to denote that and the font color is adjusted to attempt to reflect the category in which the state is.

One poll obviously is not going to affect too terribly much change on the FHQ accounting of the state of play in the electoral college. Not unless that poll is an extreme outlier. And this Franklin and Marshall survey added to the FHQ dataset did not come close to that. As such the Keystone state holds down its position as the tipping point state in the order on the Electoral College Spectrum above.

But it is also a state on the Watch List below, within a fraction of a point of shifting back into the Toss Up Biden category. However, there are five states and Maine's second that currently stand in between Pennsylvania and the partisan line. To restate what has been said in this space a time or two: Trump needs to make up some of that more than five point deficit and hope that the electoral college advantage he enjoyed in 2016 not only carries over but increases. No, that is not an insurmountable disadvantage, but that also is not the position an incumbent president wants to be in with just 68 days until election day.

The Watch List also obviously remained unchanged from yesterday's update. The same 12 states and districts plus underpolled Nevada continue to be the states to watch for when new survey data is released.

There were no new polls from Nevada today.

Days since the last Nevada poll was in the field: 119.

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 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 (8/26/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/25/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/24/20)

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