Friday, August 28, 2020

The Electoral College Map (8/28/20)

Update for August 28.

The curtain closed in a dramatic way on the Republican National Convention on Thursday evening. But the quadrennial confab adjourning did not open up the floodgates to any torrent of polling, state-level or otherwise. That will, of course, come in due time. However, for now, onlookers to the presidential race are left with the few polling crumbs have trickled out over the last two weeks.

And none of that -- not even the scant polling released in the wake of the Democratic convention last week -- did much to alter the look of things around FHQ. Pennsylvania continues to represent the tipping point position in the rank order depicted in the Electoral College Spectrum below. And importantly, there are five states (and a congressional district) that stand between the Keystone state and the partisan line separating Biden's coalition of states from President Trump's. That is a little more than five points and 80 electoral votes of insulation that Biden enjoys at the moment. Granted, Trump may still over-perform in the electoral college relative to the popular vote, reducing the steepness of the climb in front of him. But for an incumbent, it is still a climb before him in the next 67 days.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 47, Biden 45)
The one poll released to close the work week was another from Trafalgar Group. And it was a return trip to the blue wall, midwest region. Like the Wisconsin survey released earlier this week, the latest Michigan poll from the firm found Trump with the slight advantage. And as was the case in the Badger state, the Michigan results stood out. They stood out because leads for Trump have not exactly been commonplace in either Michigan or Wisconsin this summer. There have now been 60 polls of the Great Lakes state in calendar 2020 and just four of those -- including this Trafalgar poll -- have had Trump ahead in the race. And since March, only one other survey has found the president ahead in the state.

But again, this is return trip into Michigan for Trafalgar. A mid-June poll had Biden up one during a time when the former vice president was ahead by double digits in the state much more often than not. Trump, meanwhile, has been much more likely to reside in the lower 40s area of support, so this poll is a departure from that. And Biden sitting at 45 percent is the lowest the Democratic nominee has been in Michigan since the July Spry poll cited above, the only other poll since March to find him behind Trump. In other words, make of this latest Trafalgar poll what one will, but it looks like an outlier.

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.

Outlier or not, the addition of the Trafalgar poll into the Michigan data did little to alter the state of play in the Wolverine state. It remains firmly planted in the Lean Biden category with the former vice president sitting +7.29 as of now.

That is a position in the order that continues to keep Michigan off the Watch List below as well. And with no other polls released today that means that the List is as it was yesterday. The 12 states and districts below plus underpolled Nevada continue to be the states to watch. New polling data in any of that group could alter how they are classified here at FHQ. But again, only three states and one district are within a point of jumping the partisan line and changing the overall electoral vote tally. It still stands at Biden 353, Trump 185.

There were no new polls from Nevada today.

Days since the last Nevada poll was in the field: 120.

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 (8/27/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/26/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/25/20)

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