Friday, September 4, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/4/20)

Update for September 4.

After a bevy of battleground state polls a day ago, the work week came to a close offering just a couple of additions to the FHQ polling dataset. But both are from electoral vote-rich states that have for the most part been within five points of tied all summer. But each has been on the opposite side of the partisan line from the other throughout. Florida has favored Joe Biden as Texas has been consistently tipped in Donald Trump's direction. However, today's surveys from the to Sun Belt states run counter to those established trends, and that stands out on a day when mail ballots began to go out in North Carolina, the first voters of the 2020 general election.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 49, Biden 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +4.21]
Yesterday, FHQ discussed how if one were to make an argument that the race for the White House had tightened, the Florida might be a decent candidate at which to look. During one five day period in late July, fueled by those handful of double digit Biden margins, the Sunshine state was actually just inside the lower threshold of the Lean Biden category. But it is polls like today's from Trafalgar that are playing a role in drawing the gap in Florida inward. No, most of the surveys that have driven that trend have continued to show a Biden lead, but a smaller one. Generally, Trump has not been in the upper 40s in the state, at least not since May and before. [And incidentally, that was the last time -- May -- that Trump led in a Florida survey.] That includes this recent time span when the margin has closed some. This poll, typical for the lean at Trafalgar, has the president running about five points ahead of his weighted average share of support in Florida in the FHQ formula. Biden, meanwhile, falls around two points below where he has established himself in the averages.

(Biden 48, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.12]
The opposite was true in the Lone Star state, where it was Biden carrying a three point lead in a state leaning in Trump's favor. But, unlike the Trafalgar poll above, the latest Data for Progress survey that was in the field during the beginning of the Republican National Convention is not the exception to the recent rule in Texas. Biden leads there have not been non-existent since May there. In fact, of the eight polls conducted there since the end of July, Biden has had the edge in half. And while both candidates tend to enjoy advantages in the one to four point range when they have them, it is Trump that has had a few that have stretched beyond that. And that is why the Lone Star state is slightly tilted toward the president. The DfP poll in particular is not dissimilar to other recent Texas surveys where Biden has held the lead. They tend to have Biden just pushing into the upper 40s with the president typically close behind in the mid-40s. But the bottom line is that Texas continues to look unlike how Texas has looked in presidential elections over the last generation: close.

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.

Yes, both of the surveys added today ran counter to which candidate holds the lead. But neither shifted anything on the map, the Spectrum or the Watch List. Florida remains more in Biden's favor than Texas is in Trump's. Yet, both continue to be toss ups at FHQ, and Texas inched a little closer to joining the ten states and districts on the List of the states that are most likely to change distinctions here at FHQ given new polling data. So, as the work week draws to a close, this race remains steady as it goes.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 4 (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 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 (9/3/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/2/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/1/20)

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