Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/22/20)

Update for October 22.

Changes (October 22)
Toss Up Trump
Toss Up Biden
Thursday was another one of those days. First, it is the day of the final presidential debate of the 2020 cycle, a little less than two weeks out from election day. But it was also another day with a massive batch of new polling data. And it was shaping up that way before the clock struck midnight to close Wednesday. FHQ added nine surveys to the dataset after yesterday's update posted but before the end of the day and then tacked on another 28 throughout the day on Thursday. 

Overall, it was a mixed bag in those 37 new polls across 17 states. The FHQ margin in eight of those states moved in the president's direction while Biden gained ground in the remaining nine. Curiously, the former vice president made most of his gains in red states. Of the seven red states represented in the surveys added today, only Ohio moved a hair in Trump's favor (while continuing to be on the Watch List). The rest, led by Georgia, shifted toward the Democratic nominee. And the Peach state, on the weight of a couple of new polls once again jumped the partisan line back onto Biden turf. 

With the former vice president chipping away at margins in red states, Trump was doing the same in blue states. Of the ten blues states with surveys added today, seven of them saw their margins shrink, benefitting the president. But Biden increased his leads in Colorado, Florida and Wisconsin. Again, it was a mixed bag, but the small shifts in each of these states were likely most significant in Arizona, where the margin in on the verge of slipping under Biden +3, and in Ohio where a couple of new surveys nudged the Buckeye a bit further away from the partisan line. 

Anyway, on to the polls... 

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 50, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.02]
It was not the update to the Ipsos series of surveys that triggered that downward movement in the margin in the Grand Canyon state. Instead, it was the Morning Consult survey (Trump +1, see below) showing the president in a rare lead in Arizona that drew the margin there closer. That Ipsos poll actually had Biden stretching his advantage, doubling it since last week and hitting 50 percent in the process. The poll also represented the widest margin in the series thus far. But again, that Morning Consult survey served as an overall drag on any gains there. 

(Biden 58, Trump 32)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +29.07]
While the margin ticked down some in California, it is hardly something that is going to change the trajectory of the race for the largest electoral vote prize on the board. The new PPIC survey found Biden both under 60 percent and with a lead less than 30 points. The former is rare in 2020 but the former vice president has only led by 30 or more in a third of the California surveys conducted this year. But since the last PPIC survey last month, the margin has contracted some with Biden slipping under 60 percent and Trump inching up a point. In the grand scheme of things that really is not that big a change, and this poll well within the normal range of Golden state surveys. 

(Biden 51, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.40]
If the Morning Consult survey in Arizona was a drag on the overall margin there, then the firm's Florida survey along with the new Ipsos update moved the needle in Biden's direction today. Both had the former vice president up by more than five points, and both also had the Democratic nominee up a point compared to the previous polls in both series and the president down a point. The effect was a widening of the margin in the Sunshine state, a move that has pushed Biden closer to an average share in the 50 percent range (albeit still short of that mark). And the last five surveys there have now found the former vice president at or above 50 percent. Florida is a must have in any likely Trump path to 270, and Biden closing in on the majority mark there is an ominous sign. 

(Biden 51, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +0.15]
Another state that had both a Morning Consult poll and an additional survey from a different pollster was Georgia. And it is probably the tie in the Morning Consult survey that is closer to the mark in the Peach state. The latest from Garin-Hart-Yang is at the top end of the range of Biden-friendly surveys, matching the seven point spread in the recent Quinnipiac survey of the state. Both of those polls also had Biden north of 50 percent, a rarity in Georgia, but not something that does not and has not happened in polling there this year. And it is new in the G-H-Y series. Biden's advantage in the Democratic pollster's July poll of Georgia also had Biden out to a lead (47-43) which was the extreme Biden end of the spectrum of poll results there at the time. The new poll, however, is not alone on that end this time. 

(Trump 48, Biden 41)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +8.94]
After a couple of new surveys came out of the Sunflower state a day ago, Siena/NYT Upshot added another new one in Kansas today. And while the pair yesterday both found the president up double digits there, the Siena survey was more in line with the established Kansas margin here at FHQ. However, it also found both candidates lagging behind their average shares in the state by two to three points. That remains something of an issue with these Siena polls as election day approaches. They all tend to have higher than normal shares of undecideds and support for minor party candidates than many other polls. That is true here as well. This is just the third time in a Kansas poll this year that Trump has been below 50 percent there. Things are closer in the Sunflower state in 2020 than in 2016, but the president has maintained a share above 50 percent the whole time. 

(Biden 50, Trump 43 via Public Policy Polling | Biden 52, Trump 40 via Fox News | Trump 47, Biden 45 via Trafalgar Group | Biden 50, Trump 45 via Data for Progress)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.11]
One of these new polls out in Michigan does not look like the other. And, as is often the case, it is the Trafalgar survey that stands out. Of the 112 surveys that have now been conducted in the Great Lakes state in calendar 2020, Trump has led in just seven of them. Four of those seven were surveys fielded by Trafalgar and the latest matches the president's largest lead in a Michigan poll all year. The other polls saw Biden expand his advantages since the last polls in the series with the exception of the Data for Progress survey where Trump rose a point from September. But all three are in range of recent polling in the state even if the Fox survey is at the very bottom of Trump's range in recent surveys.

(Biden 48, Trump 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +8.30]
The latest update from Survey USA in Minnesota was probably more notable for how close the Senate race was than for the presidential race. This was a good sample for Republicans. Biden remained in the upper 40s but the president managed to push off the 40 percent mark where he had been in the previous two Survey USA polls of the Land of 10,000 Lakes. But this was the second straight from the firm in the state that saw the margin dip a little. For a state that was originally cited as a potential flip possibility by the president's reelection campaign, however, Minnesota remains a Lean Biden state and a Biden +6 is a pretty good survey for the president. 

(Trump 51, Biden 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +8.56]
The first Strategies 360 poll in Montana this cycle is really quite close to the shares of support (and margin for that matter) both candidates have established in polling in the Treasure state thus far this year. At 52-43 (rounded), the president holds an edge, but one that like most red states is closer than it was in 2016. Trump is still around four points behind his 2016 pace while Biden has improved in polls on Clinton's showing on election day by more than eight points. It is an above average swing that this survey affirms. 

North Carolina
(Trump 49, Biden 48)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.78]
There is not a whole lot one can say about this latest Pulse Opinion Research survey of North Carolina. Trump leads in the Tar Heel state have become more sporadic of late, and as this one does show a narrow advantage for the president, it represents no change from the firm's September poll in the state. In fact, all three surveys Pulse has conduced in North Carolina have had the president up by a point. It would be one thing if things were moving toward Trump in the series but absent any movement, this is yet more evidence of just how steady the race is in the state. 

(Trump 48, Biden 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.67]
That Pulse Opinion Research poll in North Carolina may not have shown any movement in the president's direction, but one piece of good news for Trump in the batch of polling released today was the swing from the last Fox News survey of the Buckeye state to its update there. Trump rose three points since the late September Fox poll of Ohio, but Biden dropped off by five points in the same span. As bad as the Fox Michigan poll was for the president, this Ohio survey represents the other end of the spectrum. And it is more consistent with the 47-46 (rounded) advantage Trump maintains in the FHQ averages in the state. 

(Trump 59, Biden 37)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +24.51]
Trump is going to win Oklahoma going away next month, but it continues to be a warning sign every time a new survey is released with the president under 60 percent there. That is the case in the new Sooner Poll. The president continues to run more than five points off his 2016 performance in 2020 Oklahoma polls with an average share that is just under 60 percent. Biden, meanwhile, is more than six points ahead of Clinton's pace there. It will not amount too much. Trump will still take the Sooner state's seven electoral votes, but the state remains a cautionary tale about how much things have swung toward the Democrats in 2020.

(Biden 51, Trump 46 via Public Policy Polling | Biden 52, Trump 46 via Civiqs)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.38]
This is just the second survey PPP has conducted in Pennsylvania in all of 2020 and it is not markedly different from the 51-44 lead that the former vice president held there in April. The gap has closed some but not much and Biden is stationary above 50 percent. Civiqs has been more active in the state, but only now dumped a six survey series that has run from February to now. The latest numbers are posted above with a link to all six polls, but for the purposes of keeping this brief, FHQ will focus on the change from the last poll in June to now. Contrary to the PPP series, it was the president who was stationary at 46 percent from that June poll to now as Biden added three points and pushed above 50 percent. Like a number of other blue states of the medium shade, the polls with Biden over 50 percent are starting to pile up. 

(Biden 52, Trump 41)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +11.82]
Like the Montana poll above, the new WaPo/George Mason survey of Virginia is also the first poll the firm has fielded in the state this cycle. It is also in line with the average shares both candidates have maintained in the Old Dominion through much of the year. Currently at FHQ, Biden has a 53-41 (rounded) lead in the commonwealth. And while that is a considerably wider margin than one might expect for a state that was a battleground for many of the 21st century presidential cycles, it has had a below average shift in the 2020 polls compared to the results in 2016. Biden is just two points out in from of Clinton's showing and Trump lags around his average amount -- roughly three points -- behind his performance there four years ago. Together, even that makes Virginia a surprising Strong Biden state,

(Biden 48, Trump 44 via Fox News | Biden 50, Trump 44 via RMG Research)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.19]
The new RMG Research survey of Wisconsin is its first in the Badger state in 2020 and falls in line with the established averages in the state. The race currently stands at 49-43 (rounded) with Biden ahead. So it was not that poll that shifted the average margin in Wisconsin up on the day. It was not the Fox News poll either, where the former vice president saw his 50-42 lead from the early September Fox poll cut in half in that time. As was the case with Arizona at the outset, it was the Morning Consult poll (Biden +12, see below) that did the heavy lifting, nudging the Democratic nominee's share of support closer to 50 percent. But for all the back and forth among just these three polls, Wisconsin remains in that Biden +6 range as it has for quite a while now. 

South Carolina: 
Trump 51, Biden 45 (Biden +3, Trump -3 since early October wave[Current FHQ margin: Trump +6.71]

Trump 49, Biden 47 (Biden +1, Trump +/-0)

Trump 48, Biden 47 (Biden -2, Trump +2)

Biden 48, Trump 48 (Biden +1, Trump -1)

Biden 48, Trump 47 (Biden +1, Trump -2) [Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.51]

North Carolina: 
Biden 50, Trump 47 (Biden +/-0, Trump +1)

Biden 52, Trump 45 (Biden +1, Trump -1)

Biden 52, Trump 44 (Biden +1, Trump +/-0)

Biden 52, Trump 43 (Biden +/-0, Trump -1)

Biden 51, Trump 42 (Biden +1, Trump -2)

Biden 54, Trump 42 (Biden +3, Trump -2)

Biden 55, Trump 39 (Biden +1, Trump -1) [Current FHQ margin: Biden +12.87]

FHQ will be brief with this latest wave of Morning Consult polls from an extended group of battleground states (Senate and/or presidential). The big thing is that ten of the 12 states moved in Biden's direction in the last week. Even with Arizona standing out as one that moved toward Trump, the Grand Canyon state continues to be in the Biden column. But looking at this group in sequence from the most Trump to the most Biden (as it is aligned above), the order is off from that depicted in the Electoral College Spectrum below. Arizona and Wisconsin are probably the most of sequence and on opposite ends of this truncated rank ordering from Morning Consult. That said, that Biden is at or above 50 percent in seven of these states -- states that would put him well above 270 electoral votes even without Arizona -- is the most notable aspect of this updated wave. 

The Electoral College Spectrum1
(273 | 285)
(279 | 265)
SC -9
(308 | 259)
NE CD1-1
(319 | 230)
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.

Obviously the Georgia change to Toss Up Biden looms large over things in today's update, but it change on the map and the Watch List did not translate into a move on the Spectrum. Yes, the Peach state hopped the partisan line and turned blue, but that is probably best described as the partisan line jumping Georgia. The Peach state changed colors but not positions in the order. Other than that, among the only other changes across the graphics today was California trading spots with New York on the Spectrum, moving a cell closer to the partisan line. And Kansas, a day after rejoining the Watch List came right back off it again, but only just barely. 

It is a pretty steady race. 12 days to go.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 22 (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
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Toss Up Biden
to Lean 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.

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