Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/13/20)

Update for October 13.

There are just three weeks to go until voting concludes in the 2020 presidential election on November 3. And the more things (subtly) change, the more they stay the same. Today's batch of surveys covers the full gamut of states from Strong Biden to Strong Trump on the other end of the order on the Spectrum. There are some surprises (see West Virginia), but there were no changes either to any of the states' classifications or on which side of the partisan line they fall. 

And with 21 days to go until the voting phase of the election wraps up, the fact that any day goes by without Trump cutting into Biden's advantage -- either nationally or on the state level -- is a lost day becomes more and more troubling for his reelection efforts. And the climb back is all the steeper. 

On to the polls...

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 51, Trump 48 via Emerson | Biden 51, Trump 47 via Florida Atlantic)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.46]
Over the last month, the tie in the last in the series of Florida Atlantic surveys was broken with Biden pushing further above 50 percent and Trump falling into the upper 40s. Both candidates' shares of support are a little higher in this latest poll than in the FHQ averages, but the margin is in line with where FHQ has routinely had it over the last month or so. And the Emerson survey -- the college pollsters first conducted in the Sunshine state in calendar 2020 -- is not inconsistent with either the FAU poll or the overall average margin. Together, both maintain the status quo in Florida.

(Trump 52, Biden 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +6.57]
YouGov was last in the field in the Show-Me state in July and little has change in the interim. Biden remained at 43 percent (which is consistent with the average Democratic showing in Missouri over the last three cycles) while Trump jumped up a couple of points. Missouri has been one of those Lean Trump states nearly all along at FHQ this cycle, and as such, is a state that is likely securely in the president's column unless the bottom truly drops out on him over the next three weeks. Unless or until then, Missouri actually looks a lot like Lean Biden states on the other side of the partisan line. That is to say, the favored candidate is hovering around 50 percent while the underdog is stuck in the lower to mid-40s.

(Biden 44, Trump 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.68]
In the Silver state, WPA Intelligence found a closer race than almost any other pollster working hard-to-poll Nevada this year. But that was perhaps less the issue than the fact that both candidates were noticeably well below their established average level of support in the state. Sure, Nevada has been underpolled, but that is not the explanation for the averages being above the shares reflected in this survey. Rather, the discrepancy is more a function of the 14 percent of the support going to other, none or undecided. At this late date in the race that is on the high side, especially when opinions on the incumbent's job approval have been as steady over the course of his presidency as they have been. The margin is not too terribly far off from the average here at FHQ, the level of support for Biden and Trump is compared to other Nevada polling.

North Carolina
(Biden 49, Trump 48)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.67]
FHQ will once again use the low turnout assumption in the latest Monmouth poll out of North Carolina. [That has been the policy in all states in which Monmouth has been in the field this year and reported the differing versions. Using the 50-46 Biden advantage under the high turnout assumption would have only raised the margin to Biden +1.69.] But since the last poll Monmouth conducted in the Tar Heel state in early September, little has changed. Both candidates gained, but Trump tacked on an additional point more than the former vice president. But it still comes down to the same thing in North Carolina: the state remains close, but consistently tipped in Biden's direction. However, its proximity to the partisan line means that any systematic polling error favoring Biden could put the state in Trump's column on election day (or some time thereafter). The consistency of the polling would likely yield some insurance against that sort of bias however.

(Biden 51, Trump 45 via Ipsos | Biden 47, Trump 45 via Trafalgar Group)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.49]
Both Pennsylvania polls on the day are reasonable close to the 44 percent share that the president currently holds in the Keystone state at FHQ. But they differ on just where the vice president is. And that was true of the last round of polling from each firm. Biden gained point on his margin in the Ipsos poll and added a point to his share (but Trump did too) in the Trafalgar survey. But it is the Ipsos poll that is closer to Biden's 50 percent share (rounded) in the FHQ averages. Pennsylvania remains the tipping point in the order below on the Electoral College Spectrum and is still five points out of the president's reach. That has not changed much over the last several weeks, but to the extent it has, it has moved in the Democratic nominee's direction. 

(Biden 55, Trump 34)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +24.64]
Survey USA was back in the field with a fourth update to its series of surveys in the Evergreen state. And while this survey would seemingly demonstrated a fairly marked narrowing of the race since the last poll in July, that poll was conducted during the tail end of the Biden's polling surge across the country. That is not to dismiss a change that could be an actual tightening of the gap between Biden and Trump, but this new poll is more in line with the previous two Survey USA polls from back in the spring. All had the former vice president's lead in the 20s, but this latest survey does find Biden at his lowest point in all 2020 Washington state polling. Trump, on the other hand, is right on his FHQ average share of support in the survey. 

West Virginia
(Trump 53, Biden 39)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +27.09]
If the gap closing in the Washington poll was surprising, then the Research America, Inc. survey of the Mountain state is even more shocking than the poll released there a week ago. Both show a safe Trump lead, but a significant erosion of his polling support there relative to the results in 2016. Biden is 13 points ahead of Clinton's 2016 pace in this survey, but Trump is lagging 15 points behind his. That represents a massive swing from four years ago. It is also probably a little too massive. But that is two polls in a row putting the race in West Virginia at less than Trump +20. Still, West Virginia has been sporadically surveyed in 2020, and the average remains very comfortably Trump-favorable.

(Biden 52, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.28]
It was not that long ago that Ipsos conducted a survey in the Badger state and in that week, suffice it to say, not much has changed. Biden continues to crest above the 50 percent mark and is in the mid-40s. Both are above their established FHQ average level of support here, but again, that is attributable to the fact that election day is approaching. And as November 3 grows nearer, one should expect the candidates to more regularly come in above their averages in the polls. But Wisconsin is one of those blue wall states that has been consistent, consistently about Biden +6 of late. And this survey is in line with that.

South Carolina: Trump +12 (Biden -2, Trump +4 since September survey separate from wave cited below) [Current FHQ margin: Trump +6.51]
Ohio: Trump +3 (Biden +1, Trump -1 since September wave[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.55]
Texas: Trump +2 (Biden +1, Trump +3) [Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.69]
Georgia: Trump +2 (Biden +1, Trump +1) [Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.21]
Arizona: Biden +3 (Biden +/-0, Trump +/-0) [Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.12]
North Carolina: Biden +4 (Biden +2, Trump -1)
Florida: Biden +5 (Biden +1, Trump +1)
Minnesota: Biden +6 (Biden +1, Trump +/-0) [Current FHQ margin: Biden +8.31]
Wisconsin: Biden +7 (Biden +/-0, Trump +1)
Michigan: Biden +7 (Biden -1, Trump +2) [Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.16]
Pennsylvania: Biden +8 (Biden +2, Trump -1)
Colorado: Biden +14 (Biden +5, Trump +3) [Current FHQ margin: Biden +12.87]

FHQ will not dwell too much on this wave of polls from Morning Consult. The two bookends are in the correct order, but everything else in between is a jumbled mess compared to the established order of states in the Spectrum below. But in the end, the margins are not off by a whole lot; some but not a lot. And most states saw a two point change or less since the wave last month. Michigan and North Carolina both saw a three point change but in opposite directions (toward Biden in North Carolina and toward Trump in Michigan). And the South Carolina lead doubled for Trump in the last three weeks, but to a level that is out of tune with most polling in the Palmetto state. But overall there is something incongruous about this batch of surveys. 

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)
(319 | 230)
NE CD1-1
ME CD2-1
(335 | 219)
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.

Despite all of that newly imported data -- especially the eye openers in Washington and West Virginia -- nothing changed on the day. The map, Spectrum and Watch List all stayed exactly as they were a day ago. And again, that is another day that has gone by without the president making any noticeable ground up on the former vice president's steady lead in this race. 

Three weeks to go. 

Where things stood at FHQ on October 13 (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 Trump
to Toss Up Biden
New Hampshire
from Strong Biden
to Lean Biden
New Mexico
from Strong Biden
to Lean Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up 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:

Follow FHQ on TwitterInstagram and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

No comments: