Friday, September 11, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/11/20)

Update for September 11.

As the work week came to a close there were six more state or district-level surveys released, helping to further clarify the post-convention picture of the race to 270 electoral votes. And while there were certainly a few polls from battlegrounds mixed in, it was updates in some more sporadically surveyed areas like Indiana and Oregon that did a lot of that clarifying.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 53, Biden 39)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +13.95]
The Hoosier state has not been polled all that often, but the surveys that have been conducted, including the latest update from Change Research have been remarkably stable. That is not only true  within the two polls Change has had in the field in Indiana, but also across all pollsters that have done public opinion work there in 2020. Simply put, Trump has reliably been in the low 50s for the most part as Biden has been camped out in the upper 30s. And that does not diverge much from where Indiana ended up on election day 2016. Trump is running behind where he was four years ago and Biden has only slightly improved on Clinton's showing there.

Maine CD1
(Biden 58, Trump 35)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +22.51]
The AARP survey of Maine that was released a day ago also broke the race down by congressional district and the results were not all that surprising. Biden is handily ahead in the first district which is what drives the 14 point margin statewide. Even then, the former vice president is running a couple of points ahead of Clinton's pace in CD1 while Trump is more than five points off his performance there four years ago. This is an electoral vote that is safely in Biden's column.

Maine CD2
(Biden 49, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.07]
And while the second district is currently in Biden's column as well, it is not nearly so safely there. In fact, the second remains the most competitive state or district on the Biden side of the partisan line. The AARP survey is consistent with that albeit with a margin that is tilted the most toward the former vice president of any of the scant polling conducted in the more rural northern district that Trump carried in 2016. But again, things have swung toward the Democrats in 2020 polling relative to the election results in 2016. There Biden has improved more than four points on Clinton's showing in the second and Trump is running more than seven points off his 2016 win in the second. That is a significant 11 point swing, one that comes in above the average swing of 7.5 points across all states.

North Carolina
(Trump 49, Biden 48)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.55]
After recently polling the competitive and/or targeted states within the Rust Belt, Pulse Opinion Research went back into the field in North Carolina and found President Trump up a point. That is the same margin the president enjoyed in the Tar Heel state in the firm's August survey. So there is no net difference from before the conventions to after them. This poll does fit in with the September polling in the state, but it does not exactly jibe well with a post-convention series from Pulse that also had Ohio as Biden +4. Given where each state is in the order below on the Spectrum, one might expect to see the two trade those poll numbers. That variability is not out of the ordinary however, and both states are close, but on opposite sides of the partisan line at FHQ than where recent Pulse polling found them.

(Biden 51, Trump 39)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +15.16]
DHM Research provided the first glimpse at the race in Oregon during calendar 2020. And the battle for the Beaver state's seven electoral votes looks a lot like where the Clinton-Trump race ended there in 2016, stability that runs counter to the 2016-to-2020 swing witnessed in other states across the country. That may offer some data, but not data that really clarified things in Oregon other than to indicated that Biden's advantage there is likely safe. 

(Biden 52, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.31]
Finally, Emerson conducted a survey of likely voters in Wisconsin. This is the sixth day out of the last seven in which at least one poll of the Badger state has been released. This poll and others in that span have all painted a particular picture of the battle for the ten electoral votes in one of the most closely contested states of the 2016 cycle. It is a picture of Biden consistently ahead by 5-8 points, a range that has kept the vice president's edge in Wisconsin stable at more than six points. Wisconsin is just to the Biden side of tipping point Pennsylvania in the order on the Spectrum below and is one of those states that has more noticeably shifted toward the Democrats since 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 | 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.

It was another day with another pretty healthy polling output, but one that did not shake the status quo much at FHQ. The map and Spectrum look on Friday just as they did on Thursday, but the Watch List lost Maine's second congressional district. That one electoral vote is no longer within a fraction of a point of jumping the partisan line back into Trump territory, but it is only just outside that one point threshold at this point. That is not a major change -- ME CD2 is still close. -- but it is a change nonetheless. The List of states to watch for new polling data is now down to just ten states and districts and only three of those -- a trio of Trump Toss Ups -- are in any measurable way close to moving into Biden's coalition of states and changing the overall electoral vote tally.

In the end, this has been a work week that has been pretty stable through the lens of the FHQ graduated weighted average formula. And stable is not what the president needs now with just 53 days to go until election day (not to mention voters already voting).

Where things stood at FHQ on September 11 (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
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.

Related posts:
The Electoral College Map (9/10/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/8/20)

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