Wednesday, September 23, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/23/20)

Update for September 23.

Wednesday brought 17 new polls from eight states. Primarily those came from the core six battlegrounds -- Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- but another couple of Trump-leaning toss ups -- Georgia and Ohio -- were also represented. Nothing from the flood of new data in eight of the most targeted states did anything to change the map -- still Biden 335-203 in the electoral vote tally -- but there was some important shuffling in the order of states on the Electoral College Spectrum. There will be more of that in the discussion below the Spectrum, but for now, here is a look at the cache of surveys that greeted Thursday.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 49, Biden 48 via ABC/WaPo | Biden 47, Trump 46 via Ipsos)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.49]
Much was made early on today about the Republican tilt to the sample in the ABC/WaPo survey out of Arizona. [The same was true in Florida.] There are two things one can count on one hand about recent polling in Arizona. First, Trump leads have been few and far between, and second, the president has been at or above 49 percent in the Grand Canyon state just four times (in all of calendar 2020). That is not to say this one is necessarily an outlier. It could be the start of a new trend in the Sun Belt. Or, it could be an outlier. The Ipsos poll was the first in the state this year and is marginally more consistent with the FHQ averages. Biden ran a bit behind his average share while Trump was a couple of points ahead of his. But Ipsos was more in the range of typical results than was ABC/WaPo.

(Biden 50, Trump 47 via St. Pete Polls | Trump 51, Biden 47 via ABC/WaPo | Biden 47, Trump 47 via Ipsos)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.42]
It was the first time in the field for both ABC/WaPo and Ipsos in the Sunshine state as well. But there is an established series from St. Pete Polls. That one can quickly be dispensed with however. Since the firm last conducted a Florida poll two weeks ago, neither the candidates shares of support nor the margin has changed. The focus, then, should probably be on the other two polls. But if one read the Arizona synopsis above, then the message was likely delivered on these Florida surveys as well. The ABC/WaPo poll looks like an outlier pending other future polls and Ipsos also had Biden running a tad behind his average while Trump was a couple of points ahead of his. So yeah, pretty much the same as Arizona. Importantly, however, the margin in Florida continues to tick down toward a tie, but still favors Biden for now.

(Trump 50, Biden 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.43]
Looking at the update in Georgia from Monmouth there was not a whole lot of change since the college pollster was last in the field in the Peach state at the end of July. Trump gained a point and Biden lost one in the low turnout likely voter model in that time. Even using the high turnout assumptions, the president remained stable since July as Biden lost a point. Neither assumption would have fundamentally changed where Georgia is in the rank ordering of states. Had it not been for the change in Ohio, the Peach state would have continued to be the closest Trump state on his side of the partisan line. It would have remained there had FHQ used the high turnout version of the results, but with the low turnout assumption, Georgia yields the distinction of being the closest Trump state to Ohio.

North Carolina
(Trump 45, Biden 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.47]
The latest update of North Carolina from Harper Polling_ finds President Trump easing back into the lead in the Tar Heel state, but by the slimmest of margins. Back in early August it was Biden who held that same narrow 45-44 lead in the Harper survey. And that pre-convention poll, seemingly post-surge for the former vice president, was the high point for him in the series. Earlier polls in May and before had the president up by greater margins (and outside of the margin of error in April). That early Trump advantage has long since dissipated and been replaced in the current period by surveys showing a close race in North Carolina. Not only that, but the range of leads for both candidates has shrunk as well, all the while continuing to give Biden the advantage. But the Tar Heel state is the closest of the states among the Biden coalition right now.

Baldwin-Wallace (Great Lakes Poll #3)

Michigan: Biden +8 (Biden +3, Trump +/-0 since March wave)
Ohio: Biden +1 (Biden +2, Trump -3)
Pennsylvania: Biden +2 (Biden +2, Trump -2)
Wisconsin: Biden +9 (Biden +5, Trump -4)

The last Great Lakes Poll from Baldwin-Wallace came all the way back in March. In the six months since then, all four states have moved in Biden's direction. All have swung at least three points toward the former vice president, but none more than Wisconsin which shifted nine points in that time. That is fairly indicative of the polling of late in the Badger state. While in some other states, most notably Florida, there has been some narrowing of the gap between the two major party candidates, Wisconsin has continued to advantage Biden. Those double digit leads of the surge period for Biden has disappeared, but there continues to be a steady stream of mid- to upper single digit advantages that come in day after day. In this series, it has been enough to push Wisconsin past Michigan, but the Badger state is the only one out of order compared to the Spectrum below.

Change Research (late September battleground wave)

Arizona: Biden +6 (Biden +/-0, Trump -2 since early September wave)
Florida: Biden +3 (Biden +/-0, Trump +/-0)
Michigan: Biden +8 (Biden +2, Trump +/-0)
North Carolina: Biden +2 (Biden -1, Trump -1)
Pennsylvania: Biden +4 (Biden -1, Trump -1)
Wisconsin: Biden +9 (Biden +1, Trump -2)

There was also another Change Research update from those core battleground states. As has been the case in this twice monthly updated series, there just was not that much change from the last polls in the sequence. Like the B-W updates above, it was again Wisconsin that was out of place, looking marginally less competitive than Michigan. But Arizona was also out of order compared to what is depicted on the Spectrum. The Grand Canyon state ended up on the Biden side of Pennsylvania, and it was that survey that was more divergent from the FHQ averages than was true of the survey in the Keystone state.

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)
(290 | 259)
ME CD2-1
(320 | 248)
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 285 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.

All the new data on the day did not alter the map or the Watch List, but again, it was the order on the Electoral College Spectrum that saw some change after this round of surveys was added. Importantly, the collision course Arizona and Florida have found themselves on of late saw them cross paths with the Grand Canyon state moving one cell further away from the partisan line. The president may not need Arizona if he can pick off a state like Pennsylvania currently on the other side of Arizona in the order, but Trump in most scenarios that hew closely to the established order of states, absolutely needs Florida. That Florida is inching closer to tied, then, is, well, a bit of sunshine for the president.

As mentioned above Ohio jumped both Iowa and Georgia to settle in next to the partisan line. All three states are knotted together favoring the president by less than half a point. Their order is less consequential than their relative proximity to one another. And the talk of Wisconsin's recent margins in the discussions of both series of polls above is also not without consequence. The Badger state pushed past underpolled New Hampshire in the order, moving out of that most competitive middle column to join Michigan. The average margin did not change that much in Wisconsin, but that move in the order speaks to how it has stayed stable in Biden's column as some other states have shown some signs of tightening.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 23 (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 (9/22/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/21/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/20/20)

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