Saturday, September 12, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/12/20)

Update for September 12.

Changes (September 12)
Nebraska CD2
Lean Biden
Toss Up Biden
The weekend began with a bang on the polling front. Siena and the Upshot (NYT) together released a round of surveys from a quartet of states that is all being targeted by the both campaigns, but with a couple -- Nevada and New Hampshire -- that have seen far less polling activity than their margins here at FHQ would otherwise indicate. Those updates are welcome, providing a bit more information about the state of play in each. And while Trump may be stuck in the low 40s in all four states, Biden is not that far out in front of him (with the exception of Minnesota).

Perhaps more importantly, since Nebraska's second congressional district has just one survey in calendar 2020, its averages remain tethered to the swings in other states that finished around it in 2016. Narrowing margins in states like Arizona, Florida and Michigan have nudged the FHQ average margin in the Omaha-based district down below the Lean/Toss up barrier on the Biden side of the partisan line. But the main thing with NE CD 2 is that it is very closely aligned with that five point line at the moment. While it is by definition a Toss Up, it is only barely so right now (currently Biden +4.99). And that is information that should be shared since it is also so close to the tipping point.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 50, Trump 48)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.29]
The only new survey on Saturday that was not a part of the Siena wave was from Gravis Marketing out of the Grand Canyon state. Arizona has been close, but has consistently been tipped toward Biden. The former vice president has recently been in the upper 40s while Trump has tended to be in the mid-40s with some broader variability. The margin in this poll, then, is consistent with margins elsewhere, but both candidates are running ahead of their averages established here at FHQ. But the reality is that, once in the upper 3s, the margin has gradually ticked down closer to three points during September. That said, this poll is in contrast with the last Gravis poll of Arizona back in June. During Biden's peak nationally, Trump led in that survey by four. Poll over poll, Biden gained five points while lost one.

(Biden 50, Trump 41)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.48]
Further north in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Siena/NYT found the former vice president up nine points, which does not make Minnesota look like a state that should be targeted down the stretch. Clinton did edge Trump there by one in 2016, but the average swing nationwide toward the Democrats since then would put Minnesota about Biden +8.5. That nine point advantage in the Siena survey is pretty consistent with that. However, that differs from some of the other polls in the series. The big thing for the Trump campaign in Minnesota moving is that Biden is already above 50 percent in this poll and at FHQ.

(Biden 46, Trump 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +4.47]
One of those states that differs in the Siena/NYT series from the picture painted in Minnesota is underpolled Nevada. There just has not been a very robust timeline of polls in the Silver state in calendar 2020, so there really is no firm grasp on how things evolved or did not during Biden's early summer surge. But what can be said is that in what little polling there has been in Nevada, Biden has tended to have a lower share of support than in other states that were around Nevada in the order at the end of the 2016 campaign. Unlike in Minnesota, Biden is and has been in the mid-40s in Nevada and the margins have typically been in the mid-single digits. Trump's work there is less about combining efforts to improve his stock and tear down Biden than it is focusing on the former. And that is less likely to be about the type of persuasion that would woo undecideds and more about ensuring that more of the right people turn out to vote.

New Hampshire
(Biden 45, Trump 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.45]
A state that has been closely aligned with Nevada in the presidential election cycles of the recent past is New Hampshire. And that is true in the Siena/NYT surveys as well. The Granite state is another that was a close Hillary Clinton win in 2016 and where one would, if assuming a uniform swing since 2016, expect the margin to be a little higher in 2020. The FHQ margin there is over six points, but even that change runs a little under the average swing from four years ago (~7.5 points). That divergence is even more acute in the poll released today, where Biden leads by just three. Both candidates are running behind the pace set in 2016, but undecided/other remains fairly high in this poll. That is not a dynamic witnessed elsewhere, but it something -- low survey standing of both candidates -- that Trump took advantage of four years ago.

(Biden 48, Trump 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.28]
Finally, if it is a day that ends in Y then there is probably a new poll out in Wisconsin. And yes, the Badger state was part of the Siena/NYT wave as well, the only state among the four that did not stay blue in 2016. Like Minnesota, this poll just "fits in" better with other recent survey work in the state. That five point Biden edge is consistent with other polls in the Badger state. But there is more polling in Minnesota and Wisconsin to more clearly indicate that than in either Nevada or New Hampshire. But this one is pretty close to the FHQ average there where Biden is ahead 49-43. 

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
(272 | 286)
NE CD2-1
(279 | 266)
(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 Trump'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.

FHQ could take this opportunity to once again decry the lack of polling in Nevada and New Hampshire, but instead, thanks to Siena for wading into both to get a sense of what the race looks like in each. And the take home is probably "closer than one might otherwise think." Still, that had little measurable impact on either state at FHQ. The margins dropped in both, but Nevada and New Hampshire not only stayed in the categories they were in a day ago, but they also retained their positions in the order on the Electoral College Spectrum. Both are on the Biden side of Wisconsin despite looking closer in this Siena wave. Meanwhile, Minnesota, still closely aligned with Michigan in the order, switched places with the Great Lakes state after inching under it earlier in the week.

The Watch List line up below remains the same ten states as yesterday, but the possible switch in Nebraska's 2nd has flipped since then. It is now a Toss Up Biden state within range of once again becoming a Lean Biden.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 12 (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 Toss Up Biden
to Lean 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 (9/11/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/10/20)

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