Thursday, September 17, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/17/20)

Update for September 17.

Changes (September 17)
Nebraska CD2
Lean Biden
Toss Up Biden
Thursday's batch of state-level polls -- eight surveys from five states -- came right out of the heart of the order among other places. But Arizona, Florida and North Carolina all sit between the partisan line separating the Biden and Trump coalitions of states on the Electoral College Spectrum below and the current tipping point state, Pennsylvania. Biden holds the edge in all three as of now, and Trump realistically probably needs all three in most of his paths to 270 electoral votes.

And the good news for the president with the addition of today's polls is that the FHQ margins in both Arizona and Florida ticked down slightly, not only bringing the pair closer to the partisan line but influencing the average in Nebraska's second congressional district again. The Omaha-area district, as it has now done three times since last weekend has hopped the Lean/Toss Up line back into Toss Up Biden territory. Recall, that with limited polling of Nebraska, the averages in competitive CD2 are tethered to states that finished near it in 2016, including Arizona and Florida. The attempt there is to capture the swing in the last four years in similar states.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 45, Trump 40 via Kaiser Family Foundation | Biden 47, Trump 47 via Monmouth)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.42]
Both polls released today in the Grand Canyon state are either the first this year (Kaiser) or the first since just before the Arizona presidential primary back in mid-March (Monmouth). And in the latter's case, the March sample was registered voters compared to a likely voter sample now. In other words, there is no perfect comparison for either survey. While the Kaiser survey had Biden further ahead, it also left a lot of undecideds out there and both candidates ran well behind their established FHQ averages. The Monmouth poll comes with the usual caveat that FHQ has once again used the low turnout likely voter model which more often than not favors Trump. The results do not differ that substantially when using the high turnout data. Although, it should be disclosed that using those data -- Biden +2 -- would have kept the FHQ average margin stable instead of dropping it down a hair.

(Biden 61, Trump 31 via David Binder Research | Biden 60, Trump 31 via PPIC)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +29.18]
The two updates out of California are both remarkably similar and remarkably consistent with the existing candidate shares of support and margin. Needless to say, that is not the sort of data that will uproot a state and push it to a new position in the order below, much less shift it into a different category. What one can say about California at this point is that the Golden state is one of the few where Biden is lagging behind Hillary Clinton's pace in 2016. But that is offset somewhat by Trump running slightly behind his showing there as well. However, the president's average share of support after adding these two surveys is less than a point off where he finished four years ago.

(Biden 43, Trump 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.81]
Like the Arizona poll above, the Florida version of the Kaiser Family Foundation survey had double digit undecideds in a registered voter sample. Again, that meant that both Biden's and Trump's shares of support in the poll ran fairly far behind their established averages here at FHQ. But Trump was further behind his than was Biden. In actuality, however, the real focal point in this survey should be that it is the lowest either candidate has been in a poll of the Sunshine state since a July Zogby Analytics survey. While Trump has fallen below 42 percent on occasion, this matches Biden's nadir in Florida. Shares aside, though, the margin was enough to once again bring the Florida average down a bit drawing it closer to both Arizona and the partisan line.

North Carolina
(Biden 45, Trump 43 via Kaiser Family Foundation | Biden 46, Trump 43 via Suffolk)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.53]
As with the California pair of polls above, the two out of the Tar Heel state were quite similar to each other on the surface. Unlike the California polls, the two in North Carolina surveys were not as consistent with the existing averages in the state. Biden trailed his FHQ average share by a couple of points while Trump was about three off of his. North Carolina remains a close state, but one that continues to ever so slightly advantage the former vice president. And unlike the next two states in the order -- Arizona and Florida (which were also part of the Kaiser Sun Belt wave) -- the average in the Tar Heel state increased rather than decreased, nudging the Tar Heel state a little further away from the partisan line. But it remains Biden's first line of defense up against the line separating the Biden states from the Trump states.

(Trump 53, Biden 35)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +14.71]
Finally, in Utah RMG Research unsurprisingly found the president well out in front of Biden. That may not be surprising, but the fact that Trump's 53 percent share in the survey is his high water mark in polling of the Beehive state in calendar 2020 may be. Still, that has the president running well ahead of his 2016 pace there with no favorite son independent siphoning off support in Utah. Biden may be ahead of Clinton's ending point in November 2016, but that is only enough to get the former vice president in range of where Barack Obama finished in the state in 2008 (both in this survey and in the FHQ averages).

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)
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.

Even with five new polls out of that trio of Sun Belt states in the heart of the order on the Spectrum above there was little movement and certainly not enough to change the sequence of Biden states right up against the partisan line. North Carolina is still up against the line with Arizona and then Florida behind it (and Maine's second district mixed in). That is exactly where Trump has to advance to begin erasing the deficit he finds himself in with just 47 days until November 3.

No, none of those three states nor California budged on the Spectrum, but Utah switched places with Indiana, moving deeper into the Trump coalition of states. That was the only change on the day other than Nebraska's second district changing categories and thus, once again, possible changes on the Watch List below. Again, however, that says less about the state of the race in Nebraska than it does about where the second district is in the order: right on that five point line separating Lean Biden from Toss Up Biden. Expect further updates in states like Arizona and Florida to continue to affect its standing.

The rest of the list remained unchanged from a day ago.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 17 (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 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 (9/16/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/15/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/14/20)

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