Tuesday, September 29, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/29/20)

Update for September 29.

Changes (September 29)
Toss Up Biden
Toss Up Trump
Debate day has arrived and with it a slew of new state-level surveys. Many of those were the first time some of these pollsters have conducted surveys in the 12 states polled on the day. Notably, Ohio has jumped back over the partisan line into Toss Up Trump territory after a brief stint shaded in a light blue. Now, those who were happy to see the Buckeye state move into the Toss Up Biden category a few days ago may grumble that it was the June-September waves from Survey Monkey that pushed Ohio back into the president's column. But as FHQ has said, it is not so much that Ohio is a toss up in Biden's or Trump's direction, so much as it is that the Buckeye state is close to tied. It may end up with Biden or Trump on (or after) election day, but if it continues to stay in this area in the order, then it suggests something about the extent to which things have shifted toward the Democrats since 2016. And if Ohio is among the most competitive states on election day, then it suggests that Biden is in good shape to get to and beyond 270.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 47, Biden 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +2.69]
There has not been a whole lot of polling of Alaska but what little has been done has pointed toward it being a bit more competitive than is typically the case in the Last Frontier. The Harstad Strategic Research survey has Trump up only one point. But the story is less about how much Trump is lagging behind his 2016 pace (nearly three points) there than it is about how much Biden has improved over Clinton's (almost nine points). That is a shift toward the Democrats that is above average compared to the rest of the country. Regardless, more polling of Alaska would seem warranted at this point.

(Biden 47, Trump 47)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.457]
The Grand Canyon state, meanwhile, has been consistently tipped in Biden's direction by something north of three points in the FHQ averages. And that is still the case. However, the new Susquehanna survey of Arizona is the third over the last week or so to show the state either marginally favoring the president or tied. And that comes after a stretch 12 polls dating back to mid-August since the last Trump lead in an Arizona poll. That could be noise or it could be the start of a new trend in a state that has been a Biden toss up, but a reliable one thus far with some space (and states) between it and the partisan line.

(Biden 46, Trump 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.456]
Like Arizona, Florida, too, has been a reliable albeit close state for Biden, but one that has seen some narrowing in recent days. But as FHQ noted last week, things have tightened but only to a point and that is buttressed by a series of polls that have had Biden up three. The new Susquehanna survey of the Sunshine state falls into that category and adds at least some credence to the idea that things have now plateaued there. And the margin has stabilized in the mid-threes for Biden.

(Biden 50, Trump 47 via Civiqs | Biden 50, Trump 47 via Quinnipiac)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.18]
Speaking of three point leads for the former vice president, he got a pair of them from a couple of new polls out of the Peach state. That was enough to push Georgia back up against the Trump side of the partisan line and back to being the most competitive of the states the president claims at this point. Civiqs was last in the field in Georgia in May and found Biden up a point in a registered voter sample. The switch to likely voters in the time since has only bolstered that advantage. Biden gained a couple of points and Trump remained stationary at 47 percent.

(Biden 53, Trump 40)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +20.56]
The first poll of calendar 2020 in Illinois from Victory Research is perhaps a bit closer than one would expect given the nature of the swing from 2016 to now elsewhere across the country. Yes, Biden's lead is comfortable and unlikely to collapse in the next five weeks there, but this survey represents a slight decrease in support for Biden (relative to election day 2016) and marginal increase for the president. Still, as this is the lone survey in the Land of Lincoln, it remains tethered to the swings from other states that finished around it four years ago. That keeps the margin a bit above where this poll pegs it.

New Hampshire
(Biden 52, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.69]
The polls have been sporadic enough in New Hampshire that FHQ was surprised to find that there had been a survey other than the new UMass-Lowell poll this month. And it is more in line with the pre-September polling than was the earlier Siena poll of the Granite state. This UMass poll has both candidates running a bit ahead of their established levels of support here at FHQ. But Biden does marginally better to push the poll margin just beyond the FHQ average margin. But like Minnesota, New Hampshire does not exactly look like the flip opportunity the Trump campaign may have envisioned.

North Carolina
(Biden 47, Trump 47)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.43]
UMass-Lowell was also in the field in North Carolina and found a race knotted at 47. That is not too far off from the former vice president's 47-46 (rounded) lead in the weighted averages of both candidates' shares of support. North Carolina continues to be close, but like Arizona and Florida, also is still tilted consistently toward Biden.

North Dakota
(Trump 56, Biden 37)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +19.17]
That same consistency was also seen in the latest update from DFM Research in North Dakota. DFM has been the only pollster to test the presidential trial heat in the Peace Garden state all year, and the firm has shown a similar picture each time: Trump in the mid- to upper 50s and Biden in the mid- to upper 30s. Like Illinois, North Dakota is a safe state, but a safe state for the president. But unlike the sole survey in Illinois thus far, the DFM update in North Dakota continues to show Trump running well behind the 62 percent he received there in 2016 and Biden nearly ten points ahead of Clinton's pace. North Dakota will end up a red state in November, but its swing toward the Democrats is notable.

(Trump 50, Biden 48)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.24]
The four waves of Survey Monkey polls of the Buckeye state may be new to the FHQ dataset, but the 50-48 advantage for the president there is not. Trump held the same lead a month ago in the August survey. And while that represents no change in Ohio in this series, the addition of those four monthly surveys nudges the Buckeye state back over the partisan line onto Trump's side of the ledger. Yet, as this poll is fairly close to Biden's rounded average share of support (47 percent), it has Trump running a few points ahead of his (also 47 percent, rounded). Again, however, the Buckeye state remains within a quarter of a point of the partisan line.

(Biden 49, Trump 40 via Siena/NYT Upshot | Biden 54, Trump 45 via ABC/WaPo)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.33]
For the first time in a while a pair of polls came along and inched Pennsylvania deeper into the Lean Biden category and outside of a tenth of a point of the Lean/Toss Up line. But it took a couple of nine point leads in those two polls to do it. The ABC/WaPo survey was its first there of calendar 2020, but Siena has conducted a survey in the commonwealth before. And the picture back in mid-June looked awfully similar. Biden's 50-40 edge in June has shrunk to 49-40 in September. No, that is not much shrinking. In fact, that that lead has held up -- from a time when Biden was surging in the polls across the nation -- says something about the overall steadiness of this race in the Keystone state and elsewhere. The case for narrowing in Pennsylvania is less solid than, say, Florida, and it is mainly due to polls like these.

(Trump 49, Biden 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.20]
September polls in Texas have been dominated by a host of small leads for the president, a group that now includes this UMass-Lowell. It was the first survey of the Lone Star state from the university pollster and is consistent with the average share of support Biden enjoys in the state, but has Trump a bit out in front of his. Still, that 49 precent share of support is not foreign to the president. It just happens to be toward the upper end of his range in recent polling in Texas. Like North Carolina, Texas remains close. Unlike the Tar Heel state, however, it is tipped in Trump's direction.

(Biden 48, Trump 46 via Susquehanna | Biden 48, Trump 45 via Trafalgar)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.21]
Some of the above is good for the president, but the pair of polls out of Wisconsin today represented the brightest ray of hope for Trump. The Badger state had not seen a poll with a Biden lead less than four points all month until these two polls. However, both have Biden slightly under his FHQ average share of support in the state and Trump right at the upper end of his range in group of September polls that have all too often found him in the lower 40s.

Also added:

  • June, July, August and September waves of Rust Belt polling in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin form Survey Monkey. [Be aware that the September wave is still being updated until the end of the month. Those numbers can shift and have shifted and will be updated at FHQ as they do.]
  • Battleground polling from Hart Research Associates out of Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

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.

Not only did Ohio change shades on the map and push over the partisan line into Trump territory, but it was jumped on the other side by Georgia. The Peach state settled in next to the partisan line on the Electoral College Spectrum above as the most competitive of the Trump states. But the difference between the two is negligible. But not as negligible as the one one-thousandth of a point difference in the average margins in Arizona and Florida. The two Sun Belt state remained next to each other in the order on the Spectrum but swapped spots with Florida now the closer of the two.

Further out on the blue side of the Spectrum. New Hampshire and Wisconsin once again switched places with Wisconsin rejoining the states in the competitive, middle column. And the first poll in Illinois pushed it down the bottom cell in the far left column. The same could be said for North Dakota all the way on the right end of the Spectrum. The Peace Garden state moved one cell closer to the far end of Trump's coalition of states.

All that shuffling on the Spectrum was offset by a day of little change on the Watch List. The same nine states that were there a day ago are still there with only Ohio's potential shift being different after its change to Toss Up Trump.

But for all those polls, the story remains much the same around FHQ, give or take those 18 electoral votes that keep shifting as Ohio does.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 29 (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
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 (9/28/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/27/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/26/20)

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