Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/27/20)

Update for September 27.

Changes (September 27)
Lean Biden
Toss Up Biden
Saturday transitioned to Sunday and that change brought six new polls from six mainly battleground states. Most consequential among them was the latest update in underpolled Nevada. An outlier with an unusually large lead for Biden from a couple of days ago pushed the average margin in the Silver state up above five points and into the Lean Biden category. However, that change was reversed today with the addition of another Nevada survey with Biden only up a point. And as has been the case elsewhere, the change is one thing, but the fact that the margin in the Silver state is around five points is the key. Any new polling may shift Nevada back over the Lean/Toss Up line. But for now, Nevada has slipped back under that barrier, placing it just inside the upper end of the Toss Up Biden category.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 47, Biden 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.42]
Two things have become clearer over time in Georgia. First, the Peach state is close and second, Trump continues to hold a narrow but consistent lead there. The latest YouGov survey is consistent with both. And back in July when the firm was last in the field in Georgia, the race was equally as close, but that survey fell in the window of time in which Biden was surging across the country. But the surge was more muted in the YouGov series. The former vice president's one point advantage may have disappeared, but Georgia remains tight.

(Biden 52, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.24]
Marist in its first poll of 2020 in Michigan found the race for the state's 16 electoral votes to be less close than things were four years ago on election day. But, for the most part, that is par for the course in the Great Lakes state this cycle. The thing with this survey, however, is that it has both candidates running ahead of their FHQ average shares of support, but Biden marginally more so than Trump. Still, the margin in this one is in line with the average margin here at FHQ, keeping Michigan basically where it has been all summer and now into fall.

(Biden 49, Trump 48)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +4.93]
The change on the day came in Nevada where, again, the Pulse Opinion Research poll was much closer than the recent Fox News survey. Both were outside of where the admittedly small pool of polls of the Silver state have tended to find the race. Most have found a race in the three to five point range, but Trump's share of support in this survey is higher than in any poll this year. And it is that data point that makes this one closer than has typically been the case in Nevada. The president has overachieved in Nevada polling when he he has topped out in the mid-40s (much less approaching 50 percent).

North Carolina
(Biden 48, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.48]
Biden +2 polls in North Carolina have not exactly been uncommon as September draws to a close, and YouGov finds the race just there in the pollster's latest update in the Tar Heel state. The last late July survey had the former vice president up four and also at 48 percent. Trump has cut that lead in half over those two months and climbed to a point that is in line with where FHQ has his average level of support in the state.

South Carolina
(Trump 52, Biden 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +6.50]
YouGov also conducted a poll in the other Carolina, showing a wider advantage for Trump than has been common in the Palmetto state over the summer. In fact, although the president has frequently hit 50 percent in South Carolina, he has not crested to this level since a May Civiqs survey not only also had Trump at 52 percent, but up by an equivalent ten points. That just happens to be on the high side of Trump's range and the low side of Biden's.

(Biden 54, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.48]
Finally, in Wisconsin, Marist shows Biden ahead by double digits and out in front of his average share by nearly five points. No, that is not the former vice president's high water mark in the Badger state but it is not far off it either. Trump's share, meanwhile, is more consistent with his average share in Wisconsin. And that consistency is a major warning sign for the president in a state he narrowly carried in 2016. There are other states that Trump likely needs more than Wisconsin, but if it comes off the board, then it suggests something about the extent to which things have shifted in the last four years, not just in Wisconsin but across the country.

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)
(353 | 203)
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.

Nevada may have shifted back to toss up status and once again flipped spots with tipping point Pennsylvania, but ate was not the lone change on the day. But there were not that many as the presidential race approaches five weeks until election day. Wisconsin and New Hampshire again traded spots on the Spectrum with the Badger state moving out of the middle/competitive column. The only other changes come from the least targeted state represented in today's polls, South Carolina. The YouGov survey in the Palmetto state nudged the average margin there up enough to push it past Missouri in the order of state depicted on the Electoral College Spectrum, but also enough to ease South Carolina off the Watch List below. It is now no longer within range of shifting into the Toss Up Trump category. That List of states that are within a fraction of a point of changing categories is now down to nine states with only three in range of a change that would alter the electoral vote tally.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 27 (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 Biden
to Toss Up Trump
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
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 (9/26/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/25/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/24/20)

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