Monday, September 21, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/21/20)

Update for September 21.

Changes (September 21)
Strong Trump
Lean Trump
The new work week commenced with an interesting line up of polls from mainly southern states and another round of polling from out of Maine. On the whole, it was a group of first time poll and it was good news for Joe Biden. But the swing though the Deep South from Tyson Group came with a number of surveys that do not exactly jibe well with the existing polling in those states. The Alabama poll is certainly one at which to look, but it did not have the impact that the latest Louisiana survey had. While the Yellowhammer state remained a Strong Trump state despite an unusually tight margin, the Pelican state survey was enough to nudge Louisiana back down below the Strong/Lean line into the very upper reaches of the Lean Trump category.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 48, Biden 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +13.34]
The Alabama poll in question came from the Tyson Group and had Trump just four points ahead in a state the president carried by nearly 30 points in 2016. There has been a swing toward Democrats in 2020 polling, but it has not been that large. Not by a long shot. This one is an outlier, plain and simple. No Democrat has finished above 40 percent in any of the previous three cycles and no Republican has ended up below 60 precent. Now compare that the numbers above. Okay, moving on...

(Biden 46, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.71]
The Tyson Group was also in the field last month in the Sunshine state with a survey that compared to the Alabama poll above at least ended in the range of both candidates' shares of support in other polls around the same time. It had Biden running a couple of points behind where he is now in the FHQ averages and Trump was within a point of his established average here. Overall, this one had minimal impact on where Florida is positioned. It remains on a collision course with Arizona, but with an average margin that remains just above that of the Grand Canyon state as of now.

(Biden 49, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.22]
The latest survey from GBAO_ comes form the Peach state and finds Biden narrowly ahead by three points. While that may be a bit more Biden-friendly than some other recent Georgia polling, it is not that far off. In fact, the difference is completely on the Biden number here. The firm nailed Trump's share established here in the FHQ averages, but had the former vice president three points out in front of his. Overall, this poll did not uproot Georgia from its position as the most competitive Trump toss up. It narrowed the president's advantage by a hair, but did not alter where the state is in the order depicted in the Electoral College Spectrum below.

(Trump 48, Biden 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +9.63]
There has not been an extensive level of polling in Louisiana, but the Tyson Group survey of the Pelican state did not veer too far away from some of the work that has been in the field there in calendar 2020. But it would represent a 14 point swing toward the Democrats since 2016. Yes, that is about double the average swing at FHQ, but is not nearly as egregious as the Alabama outlier above. The rest of the Louisiana polling indicates a more modest swing. Yes, one that is above average at 10 points, but Biden's gains there are consistent with his average change across all states: around three points. Trump, on the other hand, has lost more than seven points in the Pelican state as compared to 2016, a shift that runs about three points over his average change across all states.

(Biden 51, Trump 39)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +12.98]

Maine CD1
(Biden 55, Trump 34)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +23.95]

Maine CD2
(Biden 47, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +2.38]
The Suffolk of Maine just does not show that much divergence from either recent polling in the state (and in the two districts) nor the averages here at FHQ. The statewide poll and the data broken down by congressional district all paint pictures consistent with what has been established in the Pine Tree state. Needless to say, that does not really affect the average margins across any of the three jurisdictions there. Importantly, Biden remains narrowly ahead in the race for the one electoral vote in the competitive second district.

(Trump 50, Biden 40)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +10.30]
What was said above about Maine can be extended to the Tyson Group survey of Mississippi as well. The only difference is that there have been fewer polls conducted in the Magnolia state. But this  poll like the Tyson poll of Florida was on par with other surveys that have been in the field in the state: Trump is ahead and comfortably so. And the findings are consistent with the candidates' average shares of support at FHQ. Little difference from the existing average margin means little change to the average. Mississippi remains just above the Strong/Lean line among the president's coalition of states.

North Carolina
(Biden 51, Trump 49)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.54]
The one repeat survey of the day comes from Emerson out of the Tar Heel state. The college pollster was in the field with a survey a month ago and found just the opposite of what it finds in September. Rather than the president being up 51-49, it is the former vice president who holds the same advantage now. One could perhaps chalk that up to convention effects, but realistically, this is likely just noise in what has been a very close race for the 15 electoral votes at stake in North Carolina. But it is a very close race that has consistently given the edge -- but that very small one -- to Biden.

(Biden 48, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.94]
Finally, it is not necessarily unusual to see Biden ahead in a poll of Texas, but the last Tyson Group survey has the former vice president at his ceiling so far in polling of the Lone Star state and Trump near his floor there. That means that both are in range of other surveys that have been conducted there, but the Biden lead in the poll is close to the maximum. That was enough to nudge the average margin in Texas below one point, but not enough to push the state over the partisan line. Like North Carolina above, Texas has been close but has been consistently tilted in Trump's direction.

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.

This group of polls had some impact (and some of it because of an overall lack of polling in some of those Deep South states). But overall, the influence of these polls added today was pretty minimal. Yes, Louisiana shifted on the map and moved up a few cells on the Spectrum just inside the upper end of the Lean Trump category. Alabama also moved up a few spots in the order to the top of the far right column on the Spectrum. As noted above, however, the Yellowhammer state remains a Strong Trump state. No other state moved any on the Spectrum, but ME CD1 shifted below rather than above Maryland in the order. It was a change, but a subtle one.

Where the most alteration occurred between Sunday and Monday was on the Watch List. Three states  -- Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas -- rejoined the group of states within a point of changing categories here at FHQ. While there were polls in Louisiana and Texas to trigger those changes, there was nothing new out of Arkansas. The lone poll in the Natural state earlier in the summer means that the averages in Arkansas are still tethered to other states around which it finished in 2016. And the drop in the average in Alabama based on the Tyson poll influenced the projected margin in Arkansas, moving it back on the Watch List just above the Strong/Lean line.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 21 (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 Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
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
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
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 (9/20/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/19/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/18/20)

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