Wednesday, October 14, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/14/20)

Update for October 14.

Changes (October 14)
Toss Up Trump
Toss Up Biden
As the calendar flipped under three weeks until election day on November 3, Wednesday was met with a host of new state-level polling. Including some leftovers from late Tuesday, there were 21 new surveys from 13 states from across the spectrum. All six categories here at FHQ were represented. And for once a tsunami of new polling data actually triggered some changes. Georgia jumped the partisan line in order and for the second time this month became a Toss Up Biden state by the slimmest of margins. 

But as has been the case with these partisan line-jumping changes in Georgia and Ohio especially is that the moves, although consequential, are less important than the fact that both states continue to be the closest two states on the board here at FHQ. And that should likely be the take home message from this latest shift: the Peach state is close rather than Georgia is now blue. The simple fact remains that Georgia is still closer to switching back to Toss Up Trump than Ohio is to join Georgia on the Biden side of the partisan line. Obviously that could change as new polling data is revealed, but for now, both states are close. 

And not to beat a dead horse here, but if the conversation on November 3 is that Georgia and Ohio are still the most competitive states, then the former vice president is probably in good enough shape in states to the Biden side of Georgia and Ohio to be well above the 270 electoral vote mark. The order may end up being wrong where it counts in that middle column of the Spectrum in the end -- these things happen -- but it has been awfully consistent over time in this race. 

Anyway to the (flood of) polls...

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 48, Biden 46 via Trafalgar Group | Biden 49, Trump 47 via St. Pete Polls)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.32]
The pair of Sunshine state polls yesterday painted a similar picture, but the two from today are less consistent. And while one could raise the fact that the St. Pete Poll is more consistent with both the polls from a day ago and the average shares of support for both candidates, the truth of the matter is that both surveys are consistent with their preceding September polls. The leading candidate dropped a point in both and that is it. The polls may differ, but that neither has changed all that much over a month is the prevailing datapoint here. 

(Biden 48, Trump 46 via Survey USA | Biden 51, Trump 44 via Quinnipiac)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +0.03] 
Georgia was another state with a couple of polls out today. One of them -- the Survey USA poll -- is more in line with the 47-47 (rounded) tie in the FHQ averages in the Peach state. The other from Quinnipiac shows some signs of being an outlier. Now, if one puts any stock in the notion that President Trump's debate performance and Covid diagnosis were injurious to his reelection chances and further that that would be reflected in this polls, then perhaps this Quinnipiac survey is less an outlier. The survey the university pollster conducted in the state immediately prior to the debate also had Biden ahead, but his advantage was 50-47. Biden's support has not really changed much since then, but Trump's definitely trailed off over the same period. Of course, being consistent with that narrative is one thing. Actually fitting in with other data is another. And clearly this one is off target among other recent Georgia polls. And to expand the scope a bit, put it this way: If Ohio and Georgia are truly as close in the order as they are in the Spectrum below, then there is little chance that while Ohio is Biden +1 that Georgia is simultaneously Biden +7. This one is an outlier unless further information comes along to confirm it in the days ahead. 

(Trump 49, Biden 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +11.99]
This is the first Survey USA poll of the Hoosier state in calendar 2020 and it generally shows a race that is closer than many surveys there have. Polling has been limited in Indiana but this is just the second survey to find Trump under 50 percent in the state. The Biden number is in range of his FHQ average share of support, but it is that below average Trump share that is driving the margin down in this poll. This is not 2008 and Indiana is not a toss up or even a lean for that matter. 

(Trump 50, Biden 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.28]
FHQ is not going to spend much time on these midwest surveys from David Binder Research. The sample across Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin was just 600 likely voters evenly split into state-level subsamples of 200. That not only leads to super high margins of error, but also means that this trio of polls has the potential to significantly diverge from the established state of the race in any of the three. That is probably most clear in Iowa. The president consistently leads there, but more narrowly than six points in most recent polls (other than Survey Monkey). Trump is toaward the upper end of his range while Biden is at the low end of his in this one. 

(Trump 54, Biden 36)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +16.74]
Trafalgar Group was not only in the field in Florida recently but in the Pelican state as well. And in Louisiana, Trump's support has held steady since the last poll from the firm in August. Biden meanwhile has dropped a couple of points in the same time span. This survey has both candidates lagging behind their average shares of support, but is within range of the overall average margin in Louisiana. And the end result is that Louisiana holds its ground where it was in the order. 

(Biden 51, Trump 44 via Ipsos | Biden 48, Trump 39 via EPIC-MRA)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.19]
That same picture of consistency carries over into Michigan where the pair of polls from Ipsos and EPIC-MRA do not differ much from the previous polls in either series. Like the two surveys out of Florida today, the difference relative to the immediately prior polls is a point here and there. Nevermind that the margins in both surveys are in line with the overall average in the Great Lakes state. Wash, rinse, repeat. The story is the same in Michigan as well. 

(Biden 52, Trump 41)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +8.42]
Again, take these small sample David Binder Research surveys with a grain of salt. There are polls that have Biden up double digits in Minnesota but they are few compared to the bulk of surveys that find the race in the upper single digits. This update does show a tighter race than the Binder survey did in July when Biden was up 18. Trump gained more than Biden lost from a poll that came in during the tail end of the former vice president's early summer polling surge. But the Democratic nominee continues to maintain a comfortable lead in a state viewed as a flip opportunity in the Trump campaign. 

(Trump 51, Biden 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +8.60]
It has been a while since MSU Bozeman was last in the field in the Treasure state with a survey. And although Trump's lead has stretched from five to seven points, the real change is in the share of support for third party candidates and those respondents who were undecided back in April. The two major party candidates control 95 percent of the support now, but only 85 percent then. More minds have been made up in the last six months and the president still holds a large enough lead, but one that is far below the 21 point edge the president had on election day in 2016.

New Hampshire
(Biden 55, Trump 43 via UNH | Biden 51, Trump 41 via Suffolk)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +10.69]
Polling has been sporadic in the Granite state in 2020 compared to past cycles, but it has picked up in recent days and begun to more consistently find Biden ahead by double digits. That is true in both the releases today. In the last few weeks the former vice president has added a couple of points to his share of support in the UNH series of polls as Trump lost a point on his. That previous poll was in the field just before the first presidential debate, and that may have been something of a catalyst to the change, but it could just as easily be statistical noise. Regardless both of today's surveys have Biden above 50 percent in New Hampshire and his average share is approaching 53 percent. If Trump is going to flip what was a state he narrowly lost in 2016, then something is going to have to change and quickly. 

North Carolina
(Biden 46, Trump 42 via Siena/NYT Upshot | Biden 48, Trump 48 via Ipsos |
Biden 50, Trump 45 via Survey USA | Biden 48, Trump 46 via Susquehanna Polling and Research |
Biden 47, Trump 45 via RMG Research)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.74]
FHQ could probably do a separate post on all of the polls released from North Carolina over the last two days. But they all tell a similar story. With the exception of the Ipsos survey, Biden leads and by more than the current FHQ margin in the Tar Heel state. And pollsters that have conducted surveys in North Carolina during this cycle -- Upshot and Survey USA -- Biden's edge has increased since the last poll. [Ipsos had the race tied in September and still does now.] That has pushed what had been a consistent 47-46 (rounded) average advantage for the Democratic nominee to a 48-46 (round) lead. That change is small, but significant in a state that the president absolutely needs in order to get to 270. 

(Biden 48, Trump 47)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.49]
The Georgia poll from Quinnipiac may have been an outlier, but the Ohio survey is more on target compared to other recent polls in the Buckeye state. Biden has held leads there, but again, they have tended to be small and the president still has the slight advantage overall. But while it could be argued that polling in, say, North Carolina indicates a change in the direction of the race there (toward Biden), the same is not the case in Ohio (like a number of states above). Through the Quinnipiac lens, the race has not changed at all since a September survey before the first debate. This one is well within normal polling variation.

(Biden 49, Trump 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.50]
The thing about polls of Pennsylvania at this point is that most of them fall into a range of five to six points with a few that pop up outside of that. Obviously, that does little to change the commonwealth's position in the order on the Spectrum below and the new RMG Research survey follows suit. Again, it is the consistency that is the story, one that makes Trump's prospects dim but certainly not extinguished in the Keystone state. Again, however, time is running out to reverse course there and elsewhere. 

(Biden 53, Trump 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.34]
That sentiment is true in Wisconsin as well. And yes, this latest David Binder Research poll does nothing to change the president's fortunes in the Badger state, but it is a survey with a limited number of respondents. Despite that, double digit Biden leads in polls have not been uncommon in Wisconsin of late and the margin there has begun to tick upward. But this survey is consistent on the Trump number relative to the average share at FHQ and Biden's support runs a bit ahead of his. 

[Note that Survey Monkey released another round of polling in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. But as that wave was in the field from mid-September through mid-October, it overlaps with the previous round. Interviews from September 15-30 would essentially be double counted, and FHQ has opted as a result to withhold those polls until the full and separate October wave is complete.]

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)
(351 | 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.

There was a flood of polling data released today on the state-level and while one can point to some examples of Biden stretching out his advantage over the president, there was just as much if not more to suggest that the race has barely changed if at all. One place where things did change -- and on the weight of a likely outlier poll -- was Georgia. The Peach state jumped the partisan line and rejoined the former vice president's coalition of states. But that margin -- Biden +0.03 -- suggests that it may not be there to stay. Again, the take home message is that Georgia remains close, and that is not what the president's campaign wants at this point in time. That is all one needs to know about why the president will be there on Friday. Georgia, however, retains its cell (just not its shade) on the Spectrum and switches potential changes on the Watch List below. Other than that, though, everything else is as it was a day ago. 

20 days to go.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 14 (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 Toss Up Trump
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.

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