Tuesday, September 1, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/1/20)

Update for September 1.

Changes (September 1)
Toss Up Biden
Toss Up Trump
September opened with a flurry of new polling led by the wave of pre- and post-convention waves of battleground surveys in 11 states from Morning Consult. In fairness, the latter wave was not in the field completely after the Republican convention. In fact, it began after the Democratic convention adjourned and interviews ran through and after the Republican convention. Regardless, the impact of the two conventions is a bit of a mixed bag through that lens. Biden gained ground over Trump in four states while the president did the same in five other states. In two states -- Colorado and Texas -- the margin stayed the same.

But importantly, there was some sorting among the most competitive states on the board. Ohio again jumped the partisan line into Toss Up Trump territory and Georgia, while continuing to be classified as the same, displaced Ohio as the closest state on the map. Elsewhere...

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 48, Trump 44)
In the Great Lakes state, Public Policy Polling was back in the field for the first time since the end of July and found a marginally tighter race, but with Biden still in the lead. The movement was small enough to be consider statistical noise absent other similar polls. But in truth, the was one that had Biden in the heart of his range in Michigan surveys as Trump hovered near the top of his. There has not been reliable and consistent evidence of the race narrowing, so take this one with a grain of salt until there are more polls out of Michigan. And there will be more polls. Michigan remains the most frequently surveyed state in calendar 2020.

(Trump 48, Biden 44)
The Democratic-leaning House Majority PAC commissioned a poll of Montana from Expedition Strategies and found a tighter race there than either the extant polling or he averages here at FHQ have generally found. Biden was not at his polling zenith in the Treasure state in this poll, but he was running a bit ahead of his FHQ average in the state. Meanwhile Trump was at his summertime low in the state. Montana remains comfortably within the Lean Trump category.

(Biden 44, Trump 39)
Nearly on the opposite end of the spectrum from Michigan is underpolled Nevada. Sure, there are still states out there in which there has yet to be a poll conducted, but for a state that is often placed among the presidential targets, Nevada just has not been polled all that frequently. The UNLV poll was the first released from the Silver state in over 120 days. That is a lot of missed opportunities for additional public opinion data and a lot of missed changes over a period -- since late April -- that was among the most dynamic in a race that has seemingly settled into stable equilibrium of sorts. In any event, that Biden led by five points actually increased the average distance between the former vice president and Trump in the state. But with so many undecideds -- 12 percent -- unprompted to reveal a lean toward one candidate or the other, the survey come across as a day late and a dollar short in terms of assessing things in Nevada. Still, the update is nice.  

North Carolina
(Trump 49, Biden 47)
Over in the Tar Heel state, yet another survey from East Carolina -- the second in August -- found the president easing into the lead. The series of polls from ECU in calendar 2020 has always shown a close race, but one that seems to be moving in Trump's direction (save one Trump lead back in May). North Carolina, very simply, is close. The unweighted average of polls conducted there in August alone has Biden ahead 48-47, and this poll fits in well with that data.

Morning Consult (pre-/post-convention battleground waves)
Finally, the series of battleground surveys from Morning Consult, again, sends a bit of a mixed signal. There are decent signs for both candidates, but it is in Arizona where the changes were most pronounced and favoring Biden. The former vice president has been north of 50 in the Grand Canyon state, but that has not been paired with a Trump data point in the low 40s until now. Biden has consistently led in Arizona since FHQ began these projections back in June, but this last one appears to be an outlier.

The other noteworthy state-level surveys to pull out of this are the two Ohio polls that have Trump ahead at a level that has not really been seen in the Buckeye state in 2020. The exception is from Morning Consult from May. The common thing across the four polls the firm has conducted in the state is that Trump has been close to the 50 percent mark in all of them, ahead of his FHQ average there. And while the Ohio additions pushed it over onto Trump turf, the new polls in Georgia -- another very close state -- moved the average there closer to the partisan line, bringing the Peach state within two-tenths of changing shades on the map above.

Arizona: Biden +10 (Biden +7, Trump -5 since pre-convention wave)
Colorado: Biden +10 (Biden +/-0, Trump +/-0)
Florida: Biden +2 (Biden -1, Trump +2)
Georgia: Biden +3 (Biden +3, Trump -1)
Michigan: Biden +10 (Biden +2, Trump -2)
Minnesota: Biden +7 (Biden +/-0, Trump +1)
North Carolina: Biden +2 (Biden +/-0, Trump +1)
Ohio: Trump +5 (Trump +1, Biden +/-0)
Pennsylvania: Biden +4 (Biden -1, Trump +1)
Texas: Trump +1 (Trump +1, Biden +1)
Wisconsin: Biden +9 (Biden +3, Trump +/-0)

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.

This group of polls actually triggered a number of changes on the Spectrum above. No, they were not big changes in the order of states, but they were changes nonetheless. Ohio not only jumped into Trump territory but bypassed both Georgia and Iowa in the process. That seems bigger, however, than it maybe is. In reality, that change is more a function of just how closely those three states were clustered around the partisan line in the first place. On the weight of today's additions, Montana traded spots with Kansas, Colorado flipped with New Mexico and Nevada, after months without an update, pushed past Florida in the order.

That latter change was enough to properly put Nevada on the Watch List below. But while Nevada joined the list, Wisconsin slipped just off it, keeping the number of states (and districts) to watch for new polling at eleven.

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 Biden
to Lean Biden
Maine CD2
from Toss Up Biden
to Toss Up Trump
from Strong Trump
to Lean 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 (8/31/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/29/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/28/20)

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