Thursday, September 10, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/10/20)

Update for September 10.

Another day, another raft of new polling releases. The map remains the same as it has been since Ohio jumped the partisan line on the Electoral College Spectrum to join President Trump's coalition of states to open September. And while there are some subtle changes under the hood here at FHQ, the changes just have not followed. Noticeably, states like Florida and Minnesota have witnessed their margins decrease, slightly tightening the gap. That trajectory is important with 54 days to go, but if subtle is what passes for change, then the same basic dynamic is likely to carry on: Biden holding on to the lead. 

Today's poll additions did little to disrupt that. 

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 53, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.38]
Pulse Opinion Research continued their survey work across the Rust Belt. Having conducted recent polls in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the firm turned its sights toward the Great Lakes state. Yes, the Pennsylvania poll was "off" compared to the others in the series, but the rest follow the established order here at FHQ with Michigan to the Biden side of Wisconsin which is on the Biden side of Ohio in the rank order (depicted on the Spectrum below). This poll in particular has both candidates running above their FHQ average level of support, but Biden more so than Trump. Still, this survey fits in well with the recent polls in the field there. It may be on the high side of the range of margins in recent surveys, but it is comfortably within that range.

(Biden 49, Trump 40)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.36]
Further west in Minnesota, Survey USA found the race for the ten electoral votes in the Land of 10,000 Lakes more comfortably in Biden's coalition of states than has been the case in the convention/post-convention environment. But that was more a function of Trump's positioning than Biden's. The president at 40 percent underperforms his FHQ average in Minnesota by a couple of points in this on. Every time the margin ticks down in Minnesota, a poll like this comes along to stabilize it once more. For a state that the Trump campaign is targeting as a flip opportunity, Biden is over 50 percent in the averages, making it a difficult needle to thread between now and election day. That is even more true considering in-person early voting begins in Minnesota a week from tomorrow

(Trump 60, Biden 35)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +22.16]
The good news on the day came from Sooner state. The first Sooner Poll of calendar 2020 had Trump more in line with his 2016 share of support in the state than most previous polls. But while this survey buoys the president's support there in FHQ averages, he is still off by more than seven and a half points there compared to four years ago. Biden, meanwhile, has improved upon Clinton's showing in 2016 by more than six points. Sure, Oklahoma is a state far off on the far right end of the Spectrum that the president is going to carry. But that it has shifted nearly 14 points toward the Democrats in the last four years says something about the state of the overall race. 

(Biden 51, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.24]
TargetSmart conducted its first survey in the Keystone state in 2020 and the effort is mostly consistent with the picture laid out at FHQ. It nailed the Trump number (when rounding the FHQ average) and overstated Biden's level of support by a couple of points relative to the established average. And considering that Biden has been at or north of 50 percent in the commonwealth in four of the five polls in the field during September, that does not come across as too egregious a miss. In fact, it is well within what one would expect from polling variability. 

AARP Battleground Polls 

The AARP polled eleven states on both the presidential race and competitive Senate race where applicable. FHQ will not go through them one by one, but since there is no previous wave to compare with, the focus instead in the analysis will be on the order of states in the results. One can certainly quibble with the margins in some of these, but the underlying rank order of states in the eleven polls is close to that reflected in the Spectrum below. Maine and Colorado are both Strong Biden states and are flipped on that end of the order. [Plus it was nice to get a Maine update. Iowa too, for that matter.] But other than those two, only Georgia is out of place in the order, coming across as more Biden-friendly than has been true in most recent polls out of the Peach state. However, Georgia is and has been close at FHQ for a while now. And Biden +1 results are not uncommon there. On the whole, this group of surveys maintained the status quo order here. 

Maine: Biden +14 [Current FHQ margin: Biden +11.37]
Colorado: Biden +10 [Current FHQ margin: Biden +11.72]
Michigan: Biden +7 [Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.38]
Wisconsin: Biden +5 [Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.30]
Pennsylvania: Biden +3 [Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.24]
Florida: Biden +2 [Current FHQ margin: Biden +4.02]
Arizona: Biden +1 [Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.33]
Georgia: Biden +1 [Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.66]
North Carolina: tied [Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.61]
Iowa: Trump +2 [Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.49]
Montana: Trump +7 [Current FHQ margin: Trump +7.81]

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)
(279 | 265)
(308 | 259)
(319 | 230)
NE CD1-1
ME CD2-1
(335 | 219)
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.

Again, it was another day with a rush of new polling releases from places that will settle who wins the electoral college in November but with little to show for the additions. The map stayed the same as did the Spectrum. Only the Watch List saw some change with Maine drifting above Biden +11. That said, there remain eleven states and districts within a point of changing categories, but with just four clustered around the partisan line. Yet, Florida's average margin has continued to draw closer during this week. It is now likely to come off the List -- no longer within a fraction of a point of going Lean Biden -- given any poll that finds the gap lower than four points. There are eleven to watch, but five to really keep an eye on when any new polls are released.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 10 (or close to it) in...

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
Maine CD2
from Toss Up Biden
to Toss Up Trump
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Lean Trump
to Toss Up Trump
Nebraska CD2
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
from Toss Up Biden
to Lean Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
South Carolina
from Lean Trump
to Toss Up Trump
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.

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