Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Electoral College Map (8/4/20)

Update for August 4.

With just 13 weeks until election day, the day brought a host of surveys from traditionally red states aimed at assessing the Senate races in each. But all had presidential trial heats as well, providing welcome updates about the state of the race for the White House on that end of the spectrum. A new survey in California did the same on the Democratic side.

Polling Quick Hits:
Alabama (Trump 58, Biden 36):
In the Yellowhammer state, Morning Consult simultaneously found Trump near the apex of his share of support in any poll of the state in 2020 and Biden at his lowest. That added up to the widest gap between the two candidates in Alabama this calendar year. And while that is the case, that margin is not far outside the norm. But compared to 2016, Trump is running behind his pace and Biden is ahead of Clinton's. That matters little for the likely outcome in Alabama come November, but it is indicative of the swing toward Democrats that has occurred since 2016.

California (Biden 67, Trump 28):
The swing part of the Alabama story is seemingly evident in the Golden state as well. Democrats have locked California down since 1992, but those past Democratic presidential candidates have not won the state by the nearly 40 points (or really approached that figure) as the Berkeley poll finds. In truth this one is on the high side for Biden and the low end of support for Trump. That may demonstrate a swing from 2016 to now, but in the FHQ averages, both candidates are around where either Clinton or Trump were then. That may change as undecideds align with one candidate or the other, but for now California looks at FHQ like California did in 2016.

Kentucky (Trump 59, Biden 35):
Like Alabama, Kentucky is in no danger of turning blue in 2020, but it is also another state where one can say that it is not 2016 anymore. Trump carried the Bluegrass state four years ago by 30 points. Whereas, in 2020 so far, Trump's advantage is closer to 20 at FHQ. The Morning Consult survey falls squarely in the middle with both candidates underperforming their party's standard bearers from four years ago. Among the full dataset of polls released out of the state in calendar 2020, however, Trump is more than six points behind his 2016 showing while Biden has to this point in the polls improved on Clinton's total in Kentucky by nearly four points. Again, that will not shift Kentucky blue, but it speaks to the shift the polls now are showing since 2016.

Michigan (Biden 49, Trump 43):
In the Wolverine state, Public Policy Polling was back in the field with a survey that closely resembled the polls the firm conducted there in late June and mid-July. Not only was the margin the same, consistent mid-single digit range, but it lined up with the established FHQ average margin there as well. Right now that stands at Biden +7.42. The PPP poll did little to change that outlook.

South Carolina (Trump 49, Biden 44):
The Senate race may be tight in the Palmetto state through the lens of the new Morning Consult survey, but Trump held on to a larger advantage over the former vice president there. It just was not that much larger. In fact, this is another poll of South Carolina showing the president with a modest but consistent lead there. Like the other red states above, Trump is going to carry South Carolina in November. But the margin there may look more like it does in Democratic surge years. And that is to say comfortably red, but in the single digits. The South Carolina shift since 2016 at FHQ is on par with the national average where Biden has gained around three points on Clinton in that time while Trump has lost about five points.

Texas (Biden 47, Trump 46):
The one traditionally red state that does not fit the mold of those above is Texas. Morning Consult, like several other pollsters over the last few months found Biden narrowly ahead. Now, the range of polling results out of the Lone Star state includes Trump leads as well, but this is not the Texas of presidential elections of the recent past (or even over the last generation). The change since 2016 has been enough to bring a Trump +9 state from four years ago into a much more competitive area in 2020. Behind Georgia and Ohio, Texas is the third closes state on the map here at FHQ. And while it may flip in November, the state has been ever so slight tipped in the president's direction throughout these updates since June.

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.

The updates in states like Alabama and California -- uncompetitive and underpolled states -- are always nice. They round out and create a more robust picture on just how much things have changed compared to 2016 or just the last poll in each. However, the new data did little to change things here at FHQ. The average margin grew in the Golden state, but it held steady way out in the deep end of Biden's current coalition of states. And Alabama and Kentucky may have shifted in a similar direction but on the Trump end the Electoral College Spectrum, but neither strayed far -- just one cell for each -- from where they were a day ago. Everything else held steady, including Pennsylvania's position as the tipping point state, 5.19 points away from Trump at the moment.

The Watch List stayed the same as Monday as well. The thirteen states listed and Nevada remain the states to watch when new polling is released.

There were also no new polls from Nevada today.

Days since the last Nevada poll was in the field: 96.

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 (8/3/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/2/20)

The Electoral College Map (7/31/20)

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