Wednesday, September 16, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/16/20)

Update for September 16.

In with the midpoint of the work week came a number of interesting polls. Interesting for, in some cases, the margins. But in other instances because of the helpful updates in red states that have been mostly underpolled in calendar 2020. Due to Senate races in the latter, however, there are some presidential numbers as well. Yet, despite six new polls in six states today, the outlook stays mostly the same here at FHQ. Now, to be clear, there were some shake ups but not in the overall picture. It was all under the hood.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 52, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.35]
This HarrisX poll for the Lieberman Senate campaign is perhaps what one would expect from an internal poll that sees the light of day: tilted in the favor of the candidate and their party. That was true in the presidential trial heat as well. Biden held an uncharacteristic six point lead in a state where he did not lead by more than four even during his best polling period in June/July. One can call this one what it is: an outlier. But it did not do all that much damage to Trump's already narrow lead in the Peach state. The president led by less than a point before and after the addition of this survey, but now Georgia and Iowa had traded spots on the Spectrum below. Georgia now is only behind Ohio for the honor of being the most competitive state currently at FHQ.

(Trump 58, Biden 38)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +17.10]
One thing that has defined the polling on the presidential race this year in the Bluegrass state has been that while Trump has been ahead, the president has run behind his 2016 performance there. That is still true in the latest Quinnipiac survey of Kentucky, but Trump came much closer to his 2016 mark than was the case, pre-conventions, when he was at his nadir in the early August precursor. Biden in the same time span, on the other hand, came down from his peak in Kentucky to a level that is more in line with his average share of support at FHQ. But the former vice president is still running more than five points ahead of Clinton's effort in the state in 2016 while Trump is almost six points behind his. Still, this is a reliably red state for the president.

(Biden 59, Trump 38)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +12.60]

Maine CD1
(Biden 64, Trump 32)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +24.64]

Maine CD2
(Biden 53, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +2.54]
Rather than split these up, FHQ will take the Maine results from Quinnipiac together. First of all, this is a pretty good survey -- and sample -- for Biden in the Pine Tree state. This marks the apex of his support in any poll there this year. And that is something that applies across the board, statewide and in the two congressional districts. As Biden surged in this survey, however, Trump mostly remained static, hovering in these polls around where the president is in the FHQ averages. So, while Biden improved over his early August showing in the last Quinnipiac survey of Maine, Trump, again, stayed mostly where he has been.

(Biden 57, Trump 41)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +8.21]
FHQ mentioned this earlier on Twitter, but the first thing we thought about when seeing these new numbers from WaPo/ABC out of Minnesota was Sean Trende's recent RCP piece on whether state-level polling has been "fixed" in the Midwest since 2016. Polls like this on in the Land of 10,000 Lakes may lead one to conclude that they have not. The Maine survey above may be an outlier, but this one definitely is. It is not that the vice president has not been in the upper 50s in Minnesota all year, but he has not since that June/July surge period from which he has recently come down. The same may or may not be true for Trump. The president has now been in the low 40s over the last four polls of Minnesota. That is not the best of signs in a state that the Trump campaign has targeted as flippable. Needless to say this one nudged the average margin in the state up a bit, pushing it above eight points and creating some separation between Minnesota and Michigan and New Hampshire, a formerly clustered trio of states in the order on the Spectrum below.

South Carolina
(Trump 51, Biden 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +5.97]
The Palmetto state continues to look like a state that is closer than in 2016 (not unusual), but still probably comfortably tilted in the president's direction. Still, if South Carolina has swing nearly eight points in the Democrats' direction in four years, then that opens the door to a number of states -- like Georgia, Iowa and Texas -- being competitive. And that is the reality through the lens of the state-level polling in those states. But both candidates gained in the Quinnipiac transition from registered to likely voters since August, and the president maintained an advantage that keeps his lead just inside the lower end of the Lean Trump category.

(Biden 52, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.36]
Yesterday's CNN survey of the Badger state may have come across as an outlier, but that may not have been because of where the cable network and its polling partners had the former vice president. That was consistent with where WaPo/ABC had Biden at in the state as well. Rather, the difference between the two was all about the Trump data point. CNN had the president at nearly the lowest point in recent surveys in the field in Wisconsin. That said, it was just under Trump's average share of support at FHQ while the margin was consistent with that here. The CNN poll had the president running well ahead of the pace he has set in other polls of the state. The overall story remains much the same however. Biden is closing in on 50 percent in Wisconsin and the president has ground to make up in a state he narrowly carried 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 | 286)
(279 | 265)
(308 | 259)
ME CD2-1
(320 | 230)
NE CD1-1
(335 | 218)
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.

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.

The map and Watch List remain unchanged from a day ago, but there were a number of shifts on the Electoral College Spectrum above. Working from the far Democratic end to the most Republican end of the order, Maine CD1 pushed a couple of cells deeper into the Biden coalition of states as Maine CD2 moved a spot further away from the partisan line, both because of the solid Quinnipiac survey for the former vice president. And on the Trump side of the partisan line, Georgia as mentioned above in the discussion of the HarrisX poll switched places with Iowa and is now only separated from the partisan line by Ohio. Finally, South Carolina moved a hair, flipping with Missouri. The two had margins that were within a tenth of a point of each other before and that is true even after the Q-poll in the Palmetto state. But now South Carolina is on the Trump side of Missouri in the order.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 16 (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 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 (9/15/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/14/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/13/20)

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