Saturday, October 24, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/24/20)

Update for October 24.

On the last day before the countdown to November 3 ticks down below ten days there were more leftover polls from Friday than new weekend poll releases. But those leftovers from Friday were conducted by a variety of pollsters on behalf of the center-right American Action Forum in Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan and Ohio and collectively were a good set of polls for the president. Across those five states, the margins moved in Trump's direction in all of them but Michigan. [The margin in Georgia would have shifted in Biden's direction too if not for the Landmark Communications poll that was also added today.] However, in the two states -- Montana and Pennsylvania -- where there were Saturday poll releases, the margins moved in the former vice president's direction.

On to the polls... 

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 48, Trump 48)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +2.88]
In Arizona, the margin dipped below Biden +3 for the first time since Arizona and North Carolina were on a trajectory to converge earlier in the summer. That same sort of trend seems more likely to replicate itself now given the recent polling conducted in the Grand Canyon state. Basswood Research in an early October poll found the race knotted at 48 and was virtually unchanged from the firm's August poll that had Trump ahead 48-47. Both polls are a bit more Trump-favorable than other recent surveys, and that is almost all a function of the Trump side of the equation. Biden's position in both polls is consistent with the 48 percent average share of support the former vice president has established there. That consistency contrasts with a Trump share in these surveys that has him running about three points ahead of his average share.

(Trump 49, Biden 45 via Landmark Communications | Biden 49, Trump 45 via Opinion Insight)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +0.14]
The two polls out of the Peach state tell different stories. The update in the Landmark Communications series of polls saw Trump's lead expand since the firm's early October poll, but this series has consistently shown the president ahead with one exception in late September. And both candidates have tended to be in the mid-40s with the president pushing close to the upper 40s in most. And given that Georgia is a 47-47 (rounded) tie at FHQ, this poll has Trump toward the top of his range in recent polls while Biden is at the bottom end of his. The Opinion Insight survey is an update to an early September poll that found the race tied at 46. The take away from both of these polls is that both are in line with a predictable range of variation from poll to poll, all operating around a race tied in the mid- to upper 40s. 

(Biden 47, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.80]
Opinion Insight was also in the field in the Hawkeye state in both early September and again in early October. Between them, the two Iowa polls represent the largest shift on the day, moving from Trump +7 in September to Biden +2 within the last few weeks. And of the two, the more recent one is more in line with the overall FHQ average in the state. Trump leads 47-46 (rounded) at FHQ and although he trails in the most recent Opinion Insight survey, both candidates ended up well within their ranges of support in recent Iowa polling. Of the 11 polls conducted there in October, Biden has led or been tied in nine of them. Trump still holds the advantage in the Hawkeye state in FHQ's graduated weighted average, but this month the trajectory of change has been in the former vice president's direction.

(Biden 51, Trump 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.01]
The final pair of Opinion Insight polls for American Action Forum was conducted in Michigan, and again, these were the most favorable of the bunch toward the Democratic nominee. But as in Georgia and Iowa, the movement is toward Biden from September to October. Biden's 50-44 advantage in September grew, but the earlier poll was more consistent with where FHQ currently has the race for the Great Lakes state's 16 electoral votes (Biden 50-43) but not not by much. Michigan continues to be a state where polling of late has most often found the race in the Biden +6-9 range.

(Trump 50, Biden 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +8.15]
This is the first RMG Research survey of Montana in calendar 2020 and it matches the most narrow margin in Treasure state polling all year. But as is typical in those types of polls, the president lags about five points behind his 2016 showing in the state around 50 percent while Biden tends to rise into the mid-40s, above his average share of support (43 percent) at FHQ. 

(Trump 48, Biden 47) 
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.80]
Over in the Buckeye state, OnMessage Inc. in another pair of polls conducted for American Action Forum also found movement toward Biden from its September poll to the early October survey. The 51-45 lead the president had then has shrunk to a one point advantage for Trump now and is more in line with the 47-46 edge Trump has in the FHQ averages. This is another series where the latest survey has drawn closer to the established average shares of support the candidates hold in Ohio.

(Biden 51, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.42]
Finally, in Pennsylvania, Gravis Marketing condutcted a survey that ended up looking exactly like the Muhlenberg poll from yesterday. But that was representative of a shift in Biden's direction since the firm was last in the field in the Keystone state back in July. Then, the race was 48-45, Biden, but that advantage has stretched in the months since then but the president has mainly remained stationary in the mid-40s as the former vice president has pushed up into the low-50s. And that would likely kill the president's chances at reelection. Pennsylvania more than five points away from Trump is and has been a red flag for a while now at FHQ. 


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.

Today brought a smaller number of polls but few changes as well. Importantly, Iowa and Ohio swapped spots on the Electoral College Spectrum with Iowa shifting closer to the partisan line. The same was true for Montana and Nebraska's first congressional district. Montana pushed past the district in uncompetitive Nebraska and closer to the partisan line. However, neither is in any danger of changing sides. But should a landslide happen FHQ is there to provide context. 

The map and Watch List remained the same as they were a day ago.

10 days to go.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 24 (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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