Wednesday, August 5, 2020

The Electoral College Map (8/5/20)

Update for August 5.

Changes (August 5)
Toss Up Trump
Toss Up Biden
There are now just 90 days until election day on November 3. And that threshold has been marked by a change to the map here at FHQ. Ohio has once again hopped the partisan line in the order of states below and shifted to a Biden toss up. However, the Buckeye state, like Pennsylvania during the latter half of July, is a state constantly teetering on the brink of a change, hovering near the line that separates Biden's and Trump's respective coalitions of states. In other words, even though this change restores the map to what it was when FHQ began these near daily updates in mid-June, Ohio is in a position where that could change as new polling data is introduced.

And not to return once again to this well, but if Ohio is among the most competitive states -- and it is the most competitive on the map at the moment -- on November 3, then it says a lot about where the election is likely headed.

Polling Quick Hits:
Hawaii (Biden 56, Trump 29):
Yesterday, there were a handful of polls from reliably red or blue states that helped fill out the picture on the extremes of both candidates' current coalitions. Today adds another poll from such state, and it is the first survey in the field in Hawaii in calendar 2020. Unsurprisingly, Biden leads and comfortably in the MRG Research poll, but his share of support in the poll is behind where Clinton ended up in the Aloha state in November 2016. But there was a large share of undecideds (10 percent).

Florida (Biden 43, Trump 43):
Zogby Analytics had an interesting series of battleground polls from a quartet of states. But it was an interesting set taken together. Inconsistent with other recent polling, Florida was the most competitive  of the bunch while Ohio and Pennsylvania were less tipped toward Biden than North Carolina. All four were within four points of each other which is a seemingly tight range. Yet, at FHQ the spread between the is right at five points, but the order of the states is different. Such outcomes are not that atypical within a group in that sort of range, but it does look off when Florida and Pennsylvania have consistently been more Biden-favorable in polls than North Carolina and Ohio have been. The tie in Florida in particular is on the very low end of the range of margins in the Sunshine state in 2020 polling there.

Iowa (Biden 47, Trump 47):
Monmouth was also out with another state-level survey with different samples and assumptions about what turnout may look like in November. As was the case with the earlier Georgia and Pennsylvania polls from Monmouth, the new Iowa poll had a range of results that differ based on the assumptions made. And like those earlier state-level polls the race got more competitive as the sample moved from registered to likely and from likely (high turnout) to likely (low turnout). But in the Hawkeye state that meant the race got more positive for Biden through that succession instead of more Trump-friendly. But FHQ has taken to using the low turnout version and does so again in this instance. That said, for context, the change in the averages is about half a point. Trump's already narrow advantage in Iowa dips from 1.5 points with the registered sample included to just a bit more than a point (and just off the Watch List) with the low turnout assumption.

Michigan (Biden 53, Trump 41):
Hodas and Associates was again in the field in July in the blue wall states that Trump flipped in 2016. And again, as in June, they collectively and individually paint a rather rosy picture for Joe Biden. In the Michigan survey, however, the former vice president saw both his margin and share of support slip from June to July while still maintaining a double digit lead. That Biden +12 is not necessarily an outlier, but it is on the upper end of the range in the Wolverine state in late July polling. More importantly, it was outdated enough in early August that the impact was reduced in the FHQ graduated weighted average. While it boosted Biden's overall advantage here in the state, it remained around Biden +7.5.

North Carolina (Biden 44, Trump 40):
The survey of the Tar Heel state from Zogby Analytics was in line with other recent polling in the field in the state. But while the margin may have been consistent, neither candidate's share of support was. Both were on the low end with inflated (unprompted) undecideds. But while Biden's share in the poll was off by almost three points from the FHQ average share, Trump's was lower by more than five points.

Ohio (Biden 43, Trump 41):
The same thing was true of the Zogby Analytics survey in Ohio as well. Yes, the two point Biden edge was enough to tip the Buckeye state over the partisan line into Biden territory, but with a higher than typical share of undecideds, both candidates ran behind their established averages at FHQ, but Trump was disproportionately affected, running four points behind where the aggregated polling outlook has the president in the Buckeye state. These polls may not be outliers with respect to their margins, but their shares of support for the two major party candidates is well below where they have tended to be in all four states.

Pennsylvania (Biden 44, Trump 43 via Zogby Analytics | Biden 51, Trump 45 via Hodas & Associates):
Rather than go broken record and repeat the same story about Zogby, there was a Hodas poll more worthy of a discussion. Like the Michigan poll above, Biden led in July, but by less than was true in June. Like the Michigan survey, the Pennsylvania poll also saw the margin decrease by six points. By unlike the still-rosy picture in Michigan, the Pennsylvania results were right in line with where FHQ currently has the race in the Keystone state pegged: in the mid-single digits. Biden's share of support was still north of 50 percent and that has been a facet of these Hodas polls over the last couple of months. Overall, however, Pennsylvania remains just above the Lean/Toss up line in the Lean Biden category.

Wisconsin (Biden 52, Trump 38):
Finally, in the Badger state, Hodas and Associates also found Biden out to a big lead. But yes, it also trailed off some from the 17 point advantage Biden had in Wisconsin in the June wave of blue wall surveys. And even though the margin shrank, Biden's +14 in this poll is still on the high side of the range of polling in the Badger state. Most of that is a function of Trump's low standing in these polls. The president comes in again under 40 percent, four points behind his FHQ average share of support.

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
(352 | 204)
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.

There were nine new polls from eight different states released today, and with the exception of maybe the Iowa survey, all of them were quirky in one way or another. Quirks though many of those surveys may have contained, they did not fundamentally shake things up here at FHQ. Yes, Ohio jumped back onto Biden turf, but a slight breeze could have accomplished that as close as the Buckeye state was in the averages before that Zogby survey was added. Again, new polling data may take Ohio back over the partisan line when it is introduced. The state remains the closest and that should be expected rather than not, barring a further large national shift in Biden's direction. Everything else stayed the same in the rank ordering of states depicted on the Electoral College Spectrum above.

But the Watch List lost one state. Wisconsin nudged over the six point barrier and is no longer within a point of shifting from a Lean to Toss up Biden state. But that push across the six point barrier was fueled by a (somewhat outdated) outlier. In other words, its addition was discounted, but still pushed the average margin up enough (but just by two one hundredths of a point). Everything else other than Ohio stayed the same on the List. Those 12 states remain the ones to watch, where polling data may trigger a change.

And add underpolled Nevada to that list as well.

There were also no new polls from Nevada today.

Days since the last Nevada poll was in the field: 97.

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 Biden
to Toss Up Trump
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
from Strong Biden
to Lean 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 (8/4/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/3/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/2/20)

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