Saturday, September 19, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/19/20)

Update for September 19.

There was not a lot of polling to sift through on Saturday, but what little was out there had an impact on how those states -- well, state and district -- are positioned here at FHQ. Both Missouri and Nebraska's second congressional district have spent time this summer hopping back and forth between the Toss Up and Lean categories on their respective sides of the partisan line. Both, however, now appear to have slipped more comfortably into lean territory, Missouri on the Trump side and NE CD2 on Biden's. And both, as one can see below in the updated margins, are mirror images of each other.

Yet, FHQ is tempted to say that with the race tightening in some important states, Missouri is further out of reach to Biden than the Omaha-centered district is to Trump. That narrowing in states like Florida in particular has a trajectory that has brought the state closer to Trump. But that is not a trend line everywhere. And it may not include Nebraska's second. Honestly, there just is not enough polling there to arrive confidently at any conclusion. What polling has come out of the Cornhusker state has shown a very stable race for that one electoral vote however.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 53, Biden 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +6.32]
The eight point advantage Remington Research Group found in the Show-Me state in June remains now. But both candidates have siphoned off a couple of additional points from undecided/other in the time since then. Even though this survey has Trump as his peak in Missouri polling in calendar 2020, the president is overall still lagging nearly six points behind in the FHQ averages where he ended up on election day in 2016. Biden may have improved over Clinton's pace, but it does not appear as if that is going to do much other than to reduce the margin in a state that Trump is likely to hold in 45 days' time.

Nebraska CD2
(Biden 51, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.60]
Again, there has not been much polling out of NE CD2, but there was a two-for from Global Strategy Group; a new poll and results from a July survey as well. The change? Trump gained a point over the last two months but continues to trail by mid-single digits in the Omaha-area district. In the three polls conducted there that have made it out for public consumption, Biden has been at 51 percent in each while Trump has been at 44 or 45. If that was not such a small pool of surveys, and all from Democratic-aligned pollsters, FHQ might venture that the race there is remarkably stable. It may be, but these available surveys may also be a bit Democratic-friendly. Still, the static nature of the limited polling, even if tilted somewhat in the Democrats' direction, is not exactly good news for a president who narrowly carried the district 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
(273 | 285)
(279 | 265)
(308 | 259)
ME CD2-1
(320 | 230)
NE CD1-1
(335 | 218)
ME CD1-1
NE CD2-1
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.

Both Missouri and NE CD2 moved deeper into their respective coalitions of states with the introduction of these new surveys. Missouri changed spots with South Carolina and came off the Watch List below in the process. Similarly, Nebraska's second moved off of the tipping point cell and into the middle Democratic column on the Spectrum while also sliding off the Watch List. Neither are fundamental shake ups on the Spectrum, but both moving of the List brings that group of states -- those within a fraction of a point of changing categories -- down to just seven states. But nearly half -- a trio that includes Georgia, Iowa and Ohio -- are within range of jumping the partisan line and altering the overall projected electoral vote tally.

All in all, it was a quiet Saturday, but with surveys that created some subtle changes here at FHQ.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 19 (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 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 (9/18/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/17/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/16/20)

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