Friday, August 7, 2020

The Electoral College Map (8/7/20)

Update for August 7.

Changes (August 7)
Strong Trump
Lean Trump
Lean Trump
Strong Trump
The work week closed with a mixed bag of surveys from across the country. While there were a handful of polls from more competitive battlegrounds like Iowa, Michigan and Texas, there were also a couple of surveys that were in the field in underpolled states like Kansas and Utah. The latter two updates in particular had an impact on how each is classified here at FHQ. More or less, Kansas and Utah just swapped spots with the Sunflower state shifting into Lean Trump territory and the Beehive state moving into the Strong Trump group of states.

Polling Quick Hits:
Iowa (Trump 41, Biden 40):
Outside of the Binder Research poll discussed yesterday, the margins in the polling conducted in Iowa has existed in a very tight range of tied to two points in one way or the other since May. More often than not, those advantages have been narrow ones in Trump's favor. And that is true of the RMG Research survey of the Hawkeye state as well. One could quibble with the sizable chunk of undecideds left unprompted (13 percent!) in the poll that has both candidates running well south of their FHQ average share of support. Biden and Trump are knotted at 46 (although Trump does hold a 0.3 point edge).

Kansas (Trump 50, Biden 43):
From time to time, FHQ has gotten a comment or two on Twitter about the position Kansas maintains either on map or in the rank ordering depicted on the Electoral College Spectrum. And the response was multifaceted and has always been the same. Kansas was stuck in a cluster of states just inside the lower end of the Strong Trump category, but lacked polling compared to some other states. Furthermore, I tended to add that more polling would come after the Senate primary, especially if Kris Kobach had won the Republican nomination. Well, Kobach lost on Tuesday, but Public Policy Polling went into the field to test the Senate race and polled the presidential race for good measure while the firm was at it. That new data out of the Sunflower state showed a tighter than typical presidential race. Trump in that poll was off his 2016 pace in the state by six points, right at the majority threshold. Biden, meanwhile, ran seven points ahead of Hillary Clinton's finish in the state from four years ago. That would be nearly twice the average swing across all states at FHQ. The Kansas swing at FHQ -- given all the polls there in calendar 2020 -- is a more modest ten points. That still comes in above the average shift from 2016 to 2020.

Michigan (Biden 51, Trump 40):
While FHQ pointed to the Binder Research polls as outliers for less frequently polled states included in their midwestern wave a day ago, the two polls in more often surveyed states like Michigan were more in line -- albeit on the upper end of the range -- with other surveys conducted there. FHQ raises that issue because the latest EPIC-MRA poll of the Wolverine state was similar in its margin. And yes, that Biden +11 is consistent with other recent polling in the state, but it also represents some continuity with the last survey the firm had in the field at the beginning of June. Both candidates lost a point or two but that was more a function of the inclusion of third party candidates than anything else. Michigan still appears to be less a battleground in the polls than Florida, for example.

Texas (Trump 49, Biden 43):
Sure, Trafalgar Group has taken some flak for its Republican-leaning bias, and its first trip into the field in the Lone Star state is no exception. But this poll is not exactly an outlier. No, the margin is not necessarily consistent with most recent Texas polling, but it is consistent in terms of the two candidates' respective shares of support. Trump's 49 percent is at the upper end of his range, and Biden's 43 percent share in the poll is at the lower end of his. Moreover, the Trump +6 did little to change the picture at FHQ. It kept the average margin in Texas away from the Watch List, but the Lone Star state is still just Trump +1.37, close enough that the campaign will likely have to spend some there rather than in some more traditionally competitive states.

Utah (Trump 50, Biden 31):
The polling in the Beehive state has been weird throughout calendar 2020. Only two polling outfits have been in the field there and they have shown consistent but quite different races. RMG Research has shown a more comfortable Trump advantage while Y2 Analytics has found a closer raise but with Trump remaining ahead. The latest update in Utah was from RMG Research and the survey was in line with the past polls the firm had conducted there: Trump around 50 percent and Biden mired in the low 30s. That is not that different from the results four years ago in the Beehive state, but it is off from what Republican candidates have averaged over the last three cycles (60 percent). And bear in mind that while Y2 has shown Biden in the low 40s, no Democrat has cleared 40 percent since Johnson in 1964. That Biden is in the low 30s may be improvement enough overall the 29 percent Clinton received in Utah in 2016.

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)
ME CD1-1
(334 | 219)
ME CD2-1
(353 | 204)
NE 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 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.

Iowa, Michigan and Texas all held their ground on the Electoral College Spectrum above despite new data today. Iowa remains the closest of the Trump toss ups (but not the closest state overall) and stays right there on the Trump side of the partisan line just in front of Georgia. On the other hand, Kansas jumped up four cells and took Utah's spot at the least competitive of the Lean Trump states. Utah's average expanded enough with the new polls to push it into the far right column in Trump's coalition of states, deep enough to keep the Beehive state off the Watch List.

Speaking of the List, it gained Kansas which pulled Louisiana and Nebraska's first district back on a day after the changes in Indiana pulled both off. Since there is no polling in either, their averages are tethered to the swings of states that finished near each in November 2016. That was the extent of the changes to the List today, so there are now 15 states that bear watching. If new polls come out in any, then it may mean a change to how they are classified here at FHQ.

And add underpolled Nevada to that list as well.

There were no new polls from Nevada today.

Days since the last Nevada poll was in the field: 99.

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 Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
Maine CD2
from Toss Up Biden
to Toss Up Trump
from Lean Biden
to Strong Biden
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
South Carolina
from Lean Trump
to Toss Up 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 (8/6/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/5/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/4/20)

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