Monday, September 7, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/7/20)

Update for September 7.

Although Monday is the Labor Day federal holiday, polling releases did not take the day off. But the extended holiday weekend did not bring with it a rush of new data. However, there was yet another glimpse at the presidential race Wisconsin, an update in California and the first survey of Idaho in calendar 2020.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 56, Trump 39)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +29.05]
The Spry Strategies poll of the Golden state is the closest President Trump has been to Biden there in 2020. But it has the president over performing his FHQ weighted average share of support by about eight points in his high water mark in California polling. Biden, unsurprisingly, is running behind his average by about half that in this poll, a level of support that matches his low point in the state. It was enough to nudge the average margin below Biden +30 for the first time at FHQ. No, the former vice president is in no risk of losing the state in November, but what is perhaps more interesting is that he is uncharacteristically behind Hillary Clinton's showing in the state. Most states have Biden ahead of the Clinton pace from 2016 and California is one of the exceptions to that rule as of now.

(Trump 60, Biden 34)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +17.89]
The first look at the race in the Gem state from Spry Strategies did little to change the previous outlook there based on the 2016 to 2020 swings in states that finished new Idaho in the order four years ago. Trump leads big in one of the reddest of states out there. But the survey has him right at his 2016 share of support and Biden just barely ahead of his. Like California above, Idaho is going to remain a Strong Trump state, but it is noteworthy that this poll looks an awful lot like 2016 in the state, a lack of movement that runs counter to the notion of a uniform swing since the last election. So while it is helpful to have some data from Idaho, a bit more would help to flesh out a more robust picture of the race there.

(Biden 51, Trump 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.36]
Finally, another poll out of Wisconsin -- this one from Pulse Opinion Research -- served to maintain the status quo there. The number of mid- to upper single digit leads for Biden in surveys conducted in the Badger state has proliferated since convention season began, this poll included. Pulse was in the field there in early August and had Biden up 12. The lead is still there and large enough in a state that basically ended in a tie in 2016, but it does represent some contract in the margin over the last month across the Pulse polls. More interesting is the fact that Pulse was also recently in the field in another flipped blue wall state, Pennsylvania. The results in that poll resembled the 2016 results: a virtual tie. Yes, polls vary, but a Biden +8 in Wisconsin and a tie in Pennsylvania from Pulse is not exactly in line with how those two states are aligned compared to each other. Sure, the order is right, but the margins are off what has been established though other polling in the states.

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.

There was a lot of status quo maintenance in the three surveys added for today's update. All three states stayed the same shades on the map and the Watch List continued to include the same ten states and districts that it did a day ago. Those remain the states to be on the look out for new polls. It could mean changes to their designations here at FHQ. One thing that did change today was Idaho's positioning on the Electoral College Spectrum. The first poll of the calendar year in the Gem state pushed it deeper into the Strong Trump category, shifting two cells toward the right extreme in the order.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 7 (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 (9/6/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/5/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/4/20)

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