Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/24/20)

Update for September 24.

FHQ has said this a number of times this week, but there was a lot to look at today on the polling front: 19 surveys from 12 states. It was a mixture of the six core battleground states (sans Florida), the four Trump toss up states, and then a handful of states that are further out on the ends of the Spectrum that help to calibrate the average swing FHQ has been keeping tabs on from election day 2016 to 2020 general election polling. Currently sitting at Democrats +7.40, that average swing has ticked down a few notches in recent weeks. Once it was approaching eight points, but it topped out and has been receding some since Biden's summer surge that has subsequently regressed to the springtime mean. But that is another way -- the trajectory of average swing across states -- to measure narrowing in this race. So far, it suggests some tightening but not a whole lot.

On to the polls...

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 49, Trump 47)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.47]
Data Orbital was last in the field in Arizona in June and little has changed. Biden continues to claim a two point advantage, but both candidates have peeled off some support from undecided/other in those three months. And that is not unexpected as election day nears. However, this survey does overstate both candidates' support relative to their established averages here at FHQ. That, too, should be expected on some level as election day grows closer.

(Trump 45, Biden 45 via Siena/NYT Upshot | Trump 46, Biden 46 via Data for Progress)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.40]
Over in the Peach state, both Siena and Data for Progress were in the field there for the first time in calendar 2020. And both found a tied race. That is now three poll releases over the last three days to have the race for the Georgia's 16 electoral votes knotted at somewhere in the mid-40s. The average margin continues to reflect that. FHQ now has basically tied at 46.

(Biden 45, Trump 42 via Siena/NYT Upshot | Trump 49, Biden 46 via Monmouth)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.36]
The polling in Iowa may be a bit more variable overall, but the bottom line is the same as it is in Georgia. Trump retains a slim advantage but it is tempered by the fact that the Siena and Monmouth polls released today showed three point leads. But it was one for each candidate. Biden was the more consistent of the two across both surveys, but even averaging the two polls comes out to a tie at 46 (rounded), which is in line with where the FHQ weighted averages currently have the contest in Iowa.

(Trump 49, Biden 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +7.36]
The aim at Data for Progress may have been to survey the Senate landscape in the four states covered today, but it is a bonus to get the presidential numbers in typically reliably red states like Kansas (and Kentucky below). Again that helps to better calibrate the extent of the swing from 2016 to 2020. This poll represents the closest the race has appeared in the Sunflower state's limited polling in 2020 and also Biden's peak there. With this survey incorporated, Biden is overperforming Clinton by a little more than six points while Trump is lagging an almost equivalent amount behind his 2016 pace in Kansas. However, this survey is more consistent with the FHQ average on Trump's share than Biden's. The former vice president is running about three points ahead of his average. Kansas will stay red in 2020, but it has drawn closer in the last four years, only the gap has closer at a rate greater than the average swing.

(Trump 56, Biden 38)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +17.21]
The other deep red state poll from Data for Progress was conducted in Kentucky. There really were not any surprises here. Yes, the swing toward the Democrats from 2016 to 2020 is above average and nearly the same 12 points, but this survey is much more in line with the established average at FHQ: 55-38, Trump. No poll that on target is going to have much of an impact on the average. And this one did not.

(Trump 47, Biden 46 via Trafalgar Group | Biden 51, Trump 45 via YouGov | Biden 50, Trump 44 via Data for Progress)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.23]
One of these Michigan polls released today does not look like the others. One of these polls is more divergent from the established average margin there than the others. And it is not that Trafalgar missed on one candidate's share and was consistent on the other. It had Trump five points ahead of his average and Biden three points behind his. But then again, this poll is in line with the two other Trafalgar polls in Michigan. The story there is stability even if that series strays from where other pollsters have the race there. Both candidates were above their average shares in the Great Lakes state in the other two polls, but again, one should expect that as election day approaches and undecideds come off the board. But Biden gained more than Trump did -- twice as much -- in the YouGov poll over the firm's last collaboration with the University of Wisconsin at the beginning of August.

(Biden 48, Trump 47)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.26]
The same change that marked the story in the Michigan series from YouGov above is true of the latest Quinnipiac survey of Ohio. Biden continued to cling to a one point edge -- just as was the case in June Q-poll -- but both candidates saw their share of support modestly increase over the last three months. As is the case in both Georgia and Iowa, FHQ has the battle for the 18 electoral votes in the Buckeye state tied at 46. So this poll has both out in front of their average share but Biden by marginally more. The bottom line in Ohio is that it is close, representing a nearly eight point swing from 2016. And again, if the discussion about which states are the most competitive on election day includes Ohio, then Biden is in reasonably good shape unless the overall swing is not uniform everywhere.

(Trump 55, Biden 33)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +22.11]
What can one say about the situation in Oklahoma? Well, it remains comfortably red for the president. Furthermore, the margin in the Amber Integrated survey is consistent with the FHQ average margin in the Sooner state. Both candidates' support lagged in this poll behind the average share each has in the averages, but neither was by more than two points. This one is par for the course in Oklahoma. It is a safe state for Trump, but one where the swing has been well above average, nearly double it in fact.

(Biden 49, Trump 45 via YouGov | Biden 48, Trump 42 via Franklin & Marshall | Biden 50, Trump 45 via CPEC)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.08]
The trio of surveys out of the Keystone state today are all not far off of the averages here at FHQ, but there are some interesting notes in the two series from Franklin & Marshall and YouGov. The former has seen Biden's share tick down each month over the last three months, but Trump has remained stationary. And that is not the sort of trajectory that changes things around here all that much. It counters any notion of a narrowing race in Pennsylvania. But the YouGov trend line is different. Unlike the change across the YouGov series in Michigan, Biden lost some ground, but Trump gained, closing the gap, but not to a point as close as the one point Biden lead in the first poll in the sequence in February. This, then, is not a case of regressing to the springtime mean, not completely anyway.

(Trump 46, Biden 43 via Siena/NYT Upshot | Trump 50, Biden 45 via Quinnipiac)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.19]
In the Lone Star state, Siena was in the field for their first poll of the season and found Trump up by a handful of points. Compared to the established averages there, both candidates run behind them in this survey, but Biden more than the president. But the Trump number is more in line with his range in recent polls. Biden's is not, and it is attributable to the more inflated undecided/other shares in this survey. Quinnipiac, on the other hand has now conducted three surveys in Texas in calendar 2020, but this is the first with a likely voter screen. Whereas the earlier registered polls showed a one point lead in one direction or the other, the transition to a likely voter sample has benefited Trump, pushing the president to 50 percent while Biden hovered around where he has been in the previous surveys. Texas remains close, but these polls pushed it off the Watch List below.

(Biden 48, Trump 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +10.61]
The Christopher Newport surveys of Virginia in 2016 were all over the place, sometimes showing Clinton way up, but almost always with other candidates -- those not from either of the two major parties -- pulling in a hefty level of support that did not materialize on election day. That is not exactly the case with the first of the university's polls in 2020, but this one does stand out from all of the other surveys conducted in the commonwealth this year. And it is all about the margin. No poll of the Old Dominion has had Biden up by anything less than double digits since February. No poll has had Trump as high as 43 all year. And it has been since February that Biden has been below 50 percent in a Virginia poll. The tide may be turning there, or it could be that this poll is an outlier.

(Biden 50, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.41]
Finally, the last of the blue wall YouGov polls in Wisconsin represents the latest in a series but also a transition from registered to likely voters. The two point Biden lead in February grew to six points in August, but has contracted in the month since with the switch to a likely voter screen. Both candidates gained in that time, but what Trump added was three times that of Biden's gain. But compared to other recent likely voter surveys of the Badger state, this one has Trump well ahead of where he has been elsewhere (and about three points ahead of his FHQ average). Biden crests above his average share as well, but only by a fraction of a point.

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.

Again, there was a lot to look at today and a fair number of changes to boot. No, none of those changes were to the colors any states affected are shaded on the map, but there was more shuffling on the Electoral College Spectrum and a couple of changes to the Watch List. Take the latter first. Texas moved off the list but only barely while Virginia on the weight of that outlier CNU poll pushed under the Biden +11 mark and thus inched within a fraction of a point of the 10 point line separating the Strong and Lean Biden categories.

Working from left to right on the Spectrum, Colorado and Virginia swapped spots with Virginia moving closer to the partisan line. Wisconsin moved back to the most competitive middle column, trading spots again with New Hampshire. One should also get used to constant shuffling among the three states that are Trump's first line of defense up against the partisan line. Georgia, Iowa and Ohio are just that close to one another. Today, Georgia and Iowa switched places and it was the Hawkeye state that shifted closer to the partisan line. Finally, the new poll of Kansas -- the smallest margin there are year -- moved the Sunflower state past Montana toward the partisan line separating the Trump states from Biden states. Overall, however, Pennsylvania remained in the middle of it all, the tipping point state five points out of Trump's grasp at the moment.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 24 (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 Strong Biden
to Lean 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 (9/23/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/22/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/21/20)

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