Wednesday, September 2, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/2/20)

Update for September 2.

Without Morning Consult dropping a couple of waves of battleground polling from 11 states, the second day of September was a bit quieter on the polling front that was the first. However, it nonetheless carried a quartet of surveys from some of the most watched states of the 2020 race. No, unlike yesterday, there were no changes to the overarching electoral vote tally, but there was some important movement from at least one of the toss up states.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 50, Trump 43)
Of the polls that have been in the field in the Sunshine state since the beginning of convention season on August 17, Opinium's first foray into Florida seems the most out of place. Now, there have only been four polls conducted in that span, but the other three have shown a tighter race than the seven point advantage Opinium found in the perennial swing state. It is not that the poll is necessarily an outlier, but it looks much more like polls that were done prior to the conventions where Biden was hovering around the majority threshold and Trump was often in the low or mid-40s. The big difference here, then, is that Trump is still in the low 40s where most polls since convention season have found the president a bit higher in Florida.

(Trump 48, Biden 41)
The story is not dissimilar across the northern border in Georgia, where a Landmark poll showed the president up by a healthy seven point margin. Since the firm last surveyed the Peach state in mid-August right before the conventions, Trump's share of support ticked up one point, but Biden's decreased by four. That 48 percent share of the president's is toward the upper end of his range in Georgia poll. However, Biden has not been as low at 41 percent in the state since a May TargetSmart poll found 14 percent undecided or aligned with other candidates and both major party contenders in the low 40s. Again, this may be a new trend, but it differs on the Biden number from where his FHQ average share has settled: around 45 percent.

(Biden 48, Trump 47)
While the other polls on the day ran against the idea that the race to 270 is tightening in the time since the conventions, the updated Monmouth poll of Pennsylvania was consistent with it. Since Monmouth was last in the Keystone state, the Biden's advantage in the low turnout likely voter sample version of the survey dropped from seven points to just one. The three point contraction in the former vice president's support in July ended up being tacked onto the president's total share in August. And while Biden's share is consistent with the range in other recent surveys, Trump's is on the very top of his range in the commonwealth. This sort of variability should be expected from poll to poll across firms, but whether the battle for Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes is currently this close is going to hinge on more polls reflecting that reality. And Pennsylvania's margin now sits at 5.29 points in Biden's direction.

(Biden 53, Trump 40)
Last but not least, Opinium was also in the field in Wisconsin. And while FHQ has been diplomatic about whether the other polls were outliers, it will not in this case. Joe Biden does not lead Donald Trump by 13 points in the Badger state. And it is not that these types of polls have not been seen in Wisconsin. After all, there was a Biden +10 poll from Redfield and Wilton Strategies just as the Democratic convention was getting underway. And like that poll, this one -- in the field just after the Democratic convention and during the first couple of days of the Republican convention -- finds Trump toward the nadir of his support in the state during the summer and Biden near his height. Those sorts of results can happen, but it would have been nice to see what this poll may have looked like had it been in the field a few days later.

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)
(319 | 230)
NE CD1-1
ME CD2-1
(335 | 219)
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 Trumps's is on the right in bold italics.

To keep the figure to 50 cells, Washington, DC and its three electoral votes are included in the beginning total on the Democratic side of the spectrum. The District has historically been the most Democratic state in the Electoral College.

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.

Despite some noisy polls in a handful of important states to the outcome of the 2020 electoral math, little changed. The map remained as it did a day ago, continuing to show a 335-203 electoral vote lead for Biden. And on the Spectrum above, Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin all held their positions in the order (Pennsylvania once again as the tipping point state). But Georgia, on the weight of the Landmark Communications poll pushed past Iowa and Ohio in the order of states. The Peach state moved from the most competitive state on the board to just off the Watch List below. But only just. And that underscores something FHQ mentioned on Twitter this morning: The Maine CD2, Iowa, Ohio and Georgia cluster is fairly tightly knotted together and any new surveys of any of them could easily jumble them among each other. The exact order, then, is not as important about the separation between these states in the order. Those four are the most likely the change the overall electoral vote tally, but North Carolina and Texas are next in line, separated from that cluster but certainly in range of change given the right mix of future polls. For now, however, that separation exists and is important to note.

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 Biden
to Lean Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Strong Biden
to Lean Biden
Maine CD2
from Toss Up Biden
to Toss Up Trump
from Strong Trump
to Lean 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 (9/1/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/31/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/29/20)

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