Friday, September 18, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/18/20)

Update for September 18.

Changes (September 18)
Nebraska CD2
Toss Up Biden
Lean Biden
At the end of the work week there was a flurry of polling activity out of the Rust Belt and Sun Belt targets which not only have seen the most campaign and media attention in 2020, but have also been surveyed the most frequently. There are the usual six -- Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- but add to that more data out of Maine (especially the competitive CD2 in the Pine Tree state) and another in Ohio. Those two have been underpolled compared to the core six battlegrounds, but any updates from either or both provides an opportunity to better calibrate both as election day nears.

The changes in Arizona and Florida once again had an impact on Nebraska's second congressional district, shifting it back into the Lean Biden category. Again, this is less about the movement than it is about where the district is positioned in the order. It rests right on that Lean/Toss Up line at Biden +5. And as long as it sits on limited polling data, then its position will remain contingent upon how states that finished near it in 2016 have fared. Additional polling in those states and NE CD2's proximity to the Lean/Toss Up line means that it is apt to jump back and forth across the line as it has this week.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 49, Trump 40)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.61]
Across most of the new polls today, there are previous iterations from the pollsters that were in the field. That is true of Siena/NYT Upshot in Arizona. Last in the field there in June, Siena found a 48-41 Biden advantage during what could be considered Biden's peak in calendar 2020 polling nationwide. The marginal change -- Biden gaining a net two points over the last three months -- is more a story of stability than of change. As such it does not fit the trend witnessed in other states of late: that Biden's peak in June/July and basically came back to his position prior to that surge period. That stability, however, may be less an issue than the gap between the Biden and Trump in the Grand Canyon state in this poll. It had the effect of pushing Arizona's margin to within range of Florida's. The two states have been on something of a collision course over the last couple of weeks with Florida becoming more competitive and the margin in Arizona growing.

(Biden 55, Trump 38)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +13.09]

Maine CD2
(Biden 47, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +2.45]
Siena/NYT Upshot conducted a poll in Maine, their first there in calendar 2020. While there is not a natural point of comparison within a series of polls by Siena, the statewide margin and the gap in ME CD2 are consistent with the existing averages in both. That is probably more true in the district than statewide where Biden ran a couple of points ahead of his FHQ average share of support and Trump lagged nearly two points behind his. But the more narrow margin in ME CD2 perhaps casts some doubt on the Biden +9 from Quinnipiac earlier in the week. It stood out from other polling before today and still does once the Siena poll was added. Statewide, Maine is looking comfortably blue and while ME CD2 tilts in Biden's direction, the former vice president's edge there is small.

(Biden 48, Trump 40)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.53]
EPIC-MRA has now conducted five polls in the Great Lakes state in calendar 2020. The latest finds Biden at his lowest point in any of those surveys in the series. But the lead is as wide now as it was in the time before his peak during the former vice president's June/July surge (both nationally and in this series). The trend line of that margin may have regressed to the pre-surge mean, but both candidates have lost support since the first poll in the series back in January. On top of that, this most recent poll in the series does not diverge too much from the FHQ averages showing Biden up 49-42 (rounded).

North Carolina
(Biden 45, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.53]
The biggest change in the Siena/NYT Upshot wave was in North Carolina. As in Arizona, the last time Siena conducted a survey in the Tar Heel state was in June. But unlike the Grand Canyon state, the intervening period was not exactly marked by stability. Instead, a nine point Biden advantage in June shrunk to just a point in September. The four points Biden lost seemingly went right into Trump's column. There is no pre-surge poll from Siena in this case, so one cannot as easily suggest that the race for North Carolina's 15 electoral votes has regressed to the mean, but given recent polling from other pollsters, one can conclude that North Carolina is a bit closer now than it was. But the FHQ average margin in the Tar Heel state remains fairly stable in the 1-2 point range.

Civiqs (Rust Belt Rising September wave)
The top priorities on the checklist of items to look at in these waves of polls is to explore not only what has changed since the last iteration but whether the order holds up compared to the depicted on the Electoral College Spectrum below. On the first item, the growth in the Biden lead in Michigan will catch one's eye, but that Trump took back the advantage in Ohio is noteworthy as well. But the changes were minimal for the most part from August to now. The order of the states also matches the FHQ order with Ohio on the Trump end and Michigan on the Biden end. Michigan, however, is a bit further off from the tighter bond it has on the Spectrum with Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Michigan: Biden +11 (Biden +4, Trump -4 since the August wave)
Ohio: Trump +3 (Biden -2, Trump +1)
Pennsylvania: Biden +7 (Biden +1, Trump +1)
Wisconsin: Biden +7 (Biden +/-0, Trump -1)

Redfield and Wilton Strategies (Swing state September wave)
Applying the same checklist to the latest R&W cluster of polls there was not a lot of movement between early September and now. Biden did lose ground in both Michigan and Wisconsin, but maintained leads that were greater than or consistent with the FHQ average margins in both. And North Carolina flipped from favoring Trump about two weeks ago to giving Biden the edge now. But that may just be noise. North Carolina is close as FHQ has said a number of times and has reached a point where Biden and Trump both hold leads in the polls out of the Tar Heel state, but they are within a narrow range. That is no different in this wave. As for the order of the six core battlegrounds, that, too, holds up for the most part. Only Arizona is "out of position" on the Biden side of Florida. But again, the two states have been on something of a collision course of late and if current trends hold will likely trade spots on the Spectrum in the coming days.

Arizona: Biden +5 (Biden -1, Trump +1 since the early September wave)
Florida: Biden +3 (Biden +/-0, Trump +/-0)
Michigan: Biden +10 (Biden -2, Trump -1)
North Carolina: Biden +2 (Biden +4, Trump +1)
Pennsylvania: Biden +5 (Biden +1, Trump +1)
Wisconsin: Biden +6 (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)
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.

There was a lot to look at today, but little in the way of change here at FHQ. Yes, Nebraska's second district shifted again, and subtle changes on the map, Spectrum and Watch List followed. None of that is surprising. Neither really is the fact that Ohio nudged past Georgia deeper into the Trump coalition of states on the Spectrum. On the weight of that Civiqs survey, Ohio leaves Georgia behind as the most competitive Trump state on the board, the state right up against the partisan line separating the two candidates' coalitions of states from each other.

The Watch List remains as it did a day ago. The nine states and districts are still the ones to watch when new polling data comes in. But only Georgia, Iowa and Ohio are within range of jumping the partisan line and changing the overall projected electoral vote tally.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 18 (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 (9/17/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/16/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/15/20)

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