Monday, August 3, 2020

The Electoral College Map (8/3/20)

Update for August 3.

A trio of polling releases kicked the new work week off, a week 13 weeks before the week of the November election. There is a lot that will be packed into this next three months until November 3. A couple of atypical national conventions, a handful of debates and likely a continued back and forth -- in and out of the court system -- over how the election itself will be conducted will more than fill that space.

But for all of the volatility that those events might bring to the campaign but also through the lens of the polls, there is a certain picture of the race that has taken hold. Here at FHQ anyway, the battle lines have been pretty clearly drawn via our graduated weighted averages. While many states have held steady (sometimes for lack of polling), several others, especially some that matter to both candidates' pursuit of 270, have been camped out around the lines of demarcation between categories here. For example, it has become clear that states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are all clustered together near the Lean/Toss Up line on the Biden side of the ledger. That those states are fie points out of the president's reach at this point in time is not exactly the most positive signal.

Furthermore, states like Georgia, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas -- and not the pivotal competitive states from 2016 above -- are the ones that are the most competitive so far in 2020. And again, like the group of states above, over a month and a half of updating the FHQ state of the race has fairly clearly demonstrated that these four states are among the most competitive. But they are also all superfluous to Biden. Trump needs them all plus several in the middle column of the Electoral College Spectrum below to get to 270.

No, that may not last as the days continue the countdown to election day, but it is the state of the race now with three months to go.

Polling Quick Hits:
Montana (Trump 54, Biden 46):
Trump is unlikely to cede Montana to the Democrats in 2020, but he is underperforming the more than 20 point victory there in 2016. The Emerson poll out of the Treasure state actually has Trump underperforming his 2016 mark the least of any survey there this year. But the poll also pushed undecideds to respond and that still did not make up the difference. Additionally, Emerson also has Biden surpassed Clinton in the state by more than ten points. That is not good enough for the former vice president to win there, but it is indicative of the swing since 2020. On average, Biden has gained almost seven and a half points on Clinton's share in Montana while Trump is nearly five points off his pace.

Ohio (Biden 46, Trump 42):
The Buckeye state did not look all that competitive on election day in 2016, and although it has probably been underpolled in 2020 (compared to past cycles), the survey work that has been done there has shown a competitive race. The new poll from the University of Akron does nothing to change that outlook. Ohio started out in June here at FHQ as ever so slightly tipped toward Biden, but drifted over into Trump's column as July began to wane. But Ohio now sits as the most competitive state on the map; the closest right now in any event. Only seven one hundredths of a point separate Trump and Biden. The state is not tied but it also is not far off from that with both candidates just under 46 percent in the averages.

Wisconsin (Biden 51, Trump 42):
Finally, a bit of a dated survey was released out of Wisconsin from Global Strategy Group. And although the poll was in the field in the middle of July, it is in line with the surveys of the Badger state during the back half of the month with Biden more often than not carrying a lead there in the 5-10 point range. Despite CNN and NPR releasing "three months until the election" maps today can deeming Wisconsin a toss up, it simply has not looked that way at FHQ for much of July. This can certainly change, but the Badger state looks like more of Biden lean in the publicly available polling.

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 | 285)
(302 | 265)
(308 | 236)
(319 | 230)
(334 | 219)
NE CD1-1
ME CD1-1
ME CD2-1
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 285 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.

Yes, the Ohio average margin drew closer into a near tie. That was enough to not only make it the most competitive state here at FHQ as of now, but it also shifted the state up a cell on the Spectrum above, switching places with Georgia (a day after Georgia moved into that spot). That change is largely inconsequential. The bigger take home is that both are as competitive as they are. And while they remain Trump states both are also the most likely to hop the partisan line into Biden territory. To provide a bit of context on that, Biden's advantage in North Carolina -- his tightest toss up -- is nearly two points, more than the margins in not only Georgia and Ohio, but Texas and Iowa. That is a reality that is not without some significance in the race for 270 electoral votes.

Below on the Watch List, nothing changed. The same states that were there a day ago are there to start the new week. And again, if one is looking for a change in the overall tally, then look no further than Georgia and Ohio.

And yes, it would still be great to have an update in Nevada. The Silver state remains one to watch despite not being on the List.

There were also no new polls from Nevada today.

Days since the last Nevada poll was in the field: 95.

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 Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Toss Up Trump
to Lean Trump
Nebraska CD1
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
Nebraska CD2
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
from Strong Biden
to Lean Biden
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 (8/2/20)

The Electoral College Map (7/31/20)

Draft Resolution Would Largely Extend 2020 Democratic Nomination Rules to 2024

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