Monday, August 31, 2020

The Electoral College Map (8/31/20)

Update for August 31.

Changes (August 31)
Toss Up Trump
Lean Trump
As August comes to a close and the convention phase gives way to an intensifying general election campaign, the course ahead as charted here at FHQ remains a stable one. There may be states like Missouri today jumping from one category to another, but in general that movement has tended to be on one side of the partisan line or the other, within and not across the candidates' coalitions of states. That is to say, the overarching tally has not budged since the first week of August. And that streak extends another day today.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 47, Trump 46)
There was during July a flurry of polling activity in the Peach state. Nine polls were in the field last month, but there was just a third of that output in August. And that includes the latest from Public Policy Polling. Once again the North Carolina-based firm found Biden narrowly ahead of the president, and just as was the case in July, the former vice president was one point in front. And while Trump comes in right on his FHQ average in this poll, Biden is out in front of his by about a point. The bottom line in Georgia is that the state appears close across the polls conducted there.

(Trump 52, Biden 41)
Meanwhile, over in the Show-Me state, Trump has tended to fall somewhere around 50 percent in the handful of surveys conducted there in 2020. Biden, on the other hand, has been more likely to be in the low 40s. The latest update from the state -- the first since June -- is in line with that state of play in Missouri. Although, Trafalgar finds Trump at the height of his support in any 2020 poll there while Biden comes in at the low end of his range. Regardless, the addition of this poll was enough to push Missouri back into Lean Trump territory.

(Biden 50, Trump 42 via Global Strategy Group | Biden 52, Trump 43 via GQR Research)
Finally, there were a couple of polls were released out of Pennsylvania from a pair of Democratic pollsters. And both found the president in a position clustered around his average share of support at FHQ. But each had Biden at or above 50 percent in the commonwealth, beyond his weighted average there. Neither, despite margins pushing ten percent, did much to fundamentally change the outlook in Pennsylvania. It remains the tipping point state in the order depicted on the Spectrum below and is tipped nearly five and a half points in Biden's favor. That is the ground that Trump has to make up in order to cobble together a coalition of states that sum to 270 electoral votes.

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.

As mentioned above Pennsylvania maintained its hold on the tipping point state designation in the order, but that stability belies the fact that there were changes in the other two states with polling updates released today. Yes, Missouri shifted into the Lean Trump category, but it did not move all that much on the Spectrum, merely swapping spots with South Carolina. Georgia also saw some changes. The Peach state moved ahead of Iowa, becoming the most competitive state on the Trump side of the partisan line. But both remain within a point of jumping that line into Biden's coalition of states and are thus among the Watch List group of states below. While Georgia remains on the List, Missouri dropped off, reducing the list of states to keep an eye on to just 11 (plus underpolled Nevada).

There were no new polls from Nevada today.

Days since the last Nevada poll was in the field: 123.

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
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 (8/29/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/28/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/27/20)

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