Friday, October 30, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/30/20)

Update for October 30.

The final full work week prior to election day next Tuesday came to a close Friday laden with another [totally expected] round poll releases. In all, there were 37 new surveys added from 21 states, fueled by a 16 state wave from Swayable that offered some interesting results that were not necessarily in sync with what has been established in state-level polls across the country in 2020. Across the full set of the day's surveys five of the FHQ categories were represented with only the small group of Lean Trump states left out. 

But as this race eases into the weekend before voting concludes next week, things are probably pretty close to locked in at FHQ. As the days dwindle, movement in the order will likely be confined to the states on the Watch List below. And even among that group of eight states -- now that New Hampshire has rejoined the List -- only three are within a fraction of a point of shifting over the partisan line and altering the overall electoral vote tally. The trajectory of recent polling suggests that Georgia is likely to stay on the Biden side of the line and that Iowa is closing, pushing toward the former vice president as well. Ohio, on the other hand, has moved in the opposite direction toward the periphery of even being included on the Watch List. 

Aside from those three and barring an absolute flood of polling from North Carolina and/or Texas (and Maine's second congressional district for that matter), those states are also likely to stay just where they are at FHQ. Both have proven to be have been consistently close but persistently on their respective sides of the partisan line. That does not mean, however, that either is destined to fall in their projected categories come Tuesday (or in the following few days), but rather that each is within a range where a polling error of two or three points could easily place either in the other candidate's coalition of states once the dust has settled.

On to the polls...

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 51, Trump 26 via Sacred Heart University)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +23.99] 
Biden 47, Trump 34 in April poll

Clearly Sacred Heart does not aggressively push their undecideds. There is still a 20 percent chunk of respondents in this latest survey that fall in that category. But even with such a high share of undecideds, Biden still has a 25 point advantage over Trump in a state that will be blue when the votes come in. 

(Biden 52, Trump 45 via Public Policy Polling | Biden 50, Trump 47 via Harris Poll)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.08] 
Public Policy Polling: Biden 48, Trump 44 in August poll
Harris: Biden 48, Trump 48 in mid-October poll

FHQ mentioned this yesterday and will repeat it today given these two new surveys out of the Sunshine state: The race in Florida may in fact be narrowing, but Biden continues to hit 50 percent in polls at a higher clip as election day approaches than he did in earlier times. Both updates also shifted in the Democratic nominee's favor as well. 

(Trump 48, Biden 47 via Landmark Communications)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +0.41] 
Trump 49, Biden 45 in poll last week

The Landmark Communications series of polls in the Peach state this year has tended to favor the president with only one exception: the poll in the field the day after the first presidential debate at the end of September. Biden led that survey by a couple of points, but has consistently trailed Trump in the series. Yet, the president's edge shrunk in the last week since the previous Landmark survey. Although the poll shows Trump in the lead, the movement toward Biden is consistent with other recent polling of Georgia.

[Current FHQ margin: Trump +18.09] 
No previous Bluegrass poll

That the president had but 52 percent of respondents backing him in this Bluegrass C&T  poll is largely attributable to the nearly 10 percent of the sample that remained undecided. Like Connecticut, however, Kentucky is a safe state, but one that tips in Trump's direction. But it should be noted that this matches the lowest share of support the president has had in any Kentucky poll all year. But Biden has been fairly stable in the upper 30s in recent polls and the Bluegrass state will be red on Tuesday or soon thereafter.

(Biden 54, Trump 44 via Public Policy Polling | Biden 51, Trump 44 via RMG Research | Biden 54, Trump 41 via Kiaer Research)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.43] 
Public Policy Polling: Biden 50, Trump 43 in poll last week
RMG Research: Biden 48, Trump 42 in mid-October poll
Kiaer Research: Biden 50, Trump 35 in June poll

The big thing in Michigan at this late date is that after weeks of being on the cusp of cresting above 50 percent in the FHQ averages, Biden has finally done so after another batch surveys on Friday showing the former vice president over that threshold across the board. And with the exception of the Kiaer survey, the Democratic nominee's edge has increased from poll-to-poll as well. Even in that survey, Biden maintains a double digit lead.

(Biden 50, Trump 44 via Gravis Marketing)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +4.65] 
No previous Gravis poll [Current FHQ averages in Nevada: Biden 49, Trump 44 (rounded)]

While this Gravis poll of the Silver state basically falls right on the established FHQ average margin in Nevada, it did bump the margin up toward the five point line that separates the Toss Up and Lean categories. Nevada remains a toss up under the FHQ averages, but that may be partially explained by the general lack of polling overall in the state. There have been just 21 surveys of Silver state voters, but Biden has been hovering around 50 percent much of the time. The former vice president has hit or surpassed that threshold eight time with half coming during the month of October alone. 

New Hampshire
(Biden 53, Trump 45 via University of New Hampshire | Biden 52, Trump 44 via Saint Anselm)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +10.81] 
UNH: Biden 55, Trump 43 in mid-October poll
Saint Anselm: Biden 53, Trump 41 in early October poll

While much of the new polling today shifted in Biden's direction, the latest updates from Granite state university polls saw some contraction in the margins in both over the last surveys in the series. Despite that decrease, however, the president continues to lag overall by more than ten points in a state that was decided by less than a point four years ago. Trump did make up some ground, pulling out of the low 40s in both polls. He currently sits at 42 percent in the FHQ averages.

North Carolina
(Trump 48, Biden 47 via Pulse Opinion Research | Biden 51, Trump 46 via Harris Poll | Trump 48, Biden 46 via Cardinal Point Analytics | Biden 50, Trump 48 via East Carolina | Biden 52, Trump 46 via Marist)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.85] 
Pulse Opinion Research: Trump 49, Biden 48 in mid-October poll
No previous Harris poll
Cardinal Point: Trump 48, Biden 47 in July poll
ECU: Biden 51, Trump 47 in mid-October poll
Marist: Biden 51, Trump 44 in July poll

The one take home message from another slew of polling out of the Tar Heel state is that North Carolina is close. That is not news. But on top of that, there is little change across any of these polls from their prior times in the field in the state. It was movement of a point for either candidate and no more than a two point swing in any of them. Of course, a two point swing can matter in a tightly contested state. But there was a two point swing in each candidate's favor.

(Biden 52, Trump 45 via Public Policy Polling | Biden 51, Trump 46 via Harris Poll)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.43] 
Public Policy Polling: Biden 51, Trump 46 in poll last week
Harris: Biden 51, Trump 46 in mid-October poll

As tiring as it might get saying this, there were another two polls in the Keystone state today and both, again, had Biden around 50 percent and Trump in the mid-40s. The consistency across pollsters in Pennsylvania is what continues to be most noteworthy. The uncertainty in the commonwealth is less in the polls and more about turnout and any court challenges about the vote counting process there. 

(Trump 50, Biden 46 via RMG Research)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.45] 
No previous RMG poll [Current FHQ averages in Texas: Trump 48, Biden 46 (rounded)]

FHQ often talks about how often Biden tops 50 percent in the blue wall states that are in the Lean Biden category, but it is an indicator of sorts for the president in red state polling as well. Of the 67 surveys conducted thus far in the Lone Star state, Trump has hit or surpassed the majority mark in roughly a fifth of them. A little less than a quarter of those have fallen in the month of October, a pace similar to the rest of the year. Biden, on the other, hand has been there just once. It is that difference that helps to explain the narrow lead the president has maintained in Texas throughout 2020. The Lone Star state has been close all along, but like North Carolina on the other side of the partisan line for Biden, has been tipped in the president's favor.

(Trump 59, Biden 31 via University of Wyoming)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +39.52] 
No previous University of Wyoming poll [Current FHQ averages in Wyoming: Trump 68, Biden 29 (rounded)]

A rare update in Wyoming shows Trump coming in well under what one might expect in the Equality state for a Republican presidential nominee. However, even with a share of support under 60 percent and nearly ten points off his average at FHQ, the president is far out in front in the state occupying the last cell on the far right end of the Electoral College Spectrum below. The polling has been scant in the Cowboy state in 2020, but it collectively has both candidates within a point of their parties' presidential performance in the state in 2016.

Swayable (October battleground and assorted polls -- initial public wave of releases):
Alabama: Trump 56, Biden 37 [Current FHQ margin: Trump +19.75] 
Ohio: Trump 55, Biden 44 [Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.00] 
Indiana: Trump 53, Biden 42 [Current FHQ margin: Trump +11.36] 
Florida: Trump 51, Biden 46
Texas: Trump 49, Biden 48
Georgia: Biden 51, Trump 48
North Carolina: Biden 50, Trump 48
Pennsylvania: Biden 52, Trump 46
Arizona: Biden 52, Trump 44 [Current FHQ margin: Biden +2.98] 
Wisconsin: Biden 54, Trump 45 [Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.49] 
Virginia: Biden 55, Trump 44 [Current FHQ margin: Biden +11.79] 
Illinois: Biden 54, Trump 43 [Current FHQ margin: Biden +18.32] 
Michigan: Biden 59, Trump 40
New Jersey: Biden 62, Trump 38 [Current FHQ margin: Biden +20.09] 
California: Biden 62, Trump 35 [Current FHQ margin: Biden +29.36] 
New York: Biden 65, Trump 33 [Current FHQ margin: Biden +29.56] 

This is an interesting wave of polls from Swayable made all the more so by a couple of glaring standouts. Not only is the order not particularly in line with the established order of states at FHQ, but the world where Trump is ahead by 12 in Ohio and Biden is up 19 in neighboring Michigan is a strange world indeed. But a 31 point gap between the two in these surveys is a significant departure from the eight points that separated the two Rust Belt states in 2016 and the roughly equivalent space between them in the averages at FHQ. The picture here at FHQ is one of a uniform swing for Michigan and Ohio relative to each other from four years ago. Yet, the snapshot in the small sample Swayable polls is one big shifts but in opposite directions. Take these with a grain of salt. 

One other footnote here with respect to Ohio is that the average margin in the Buckeye state rounds up to Trump +1 right on the nose. But since the margin there is technically Trump +0.9985, the Buckeye state remains on the Watch List below, but only just barely. 


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.

All those surveys -- again, 37 polls in 21 states -- and there was little in the way of change that materialized at FHQ. The new Swayable poll out of the Land of Lincoln decreased the margin there enough to shift Illinois past both New Jersey and Oregon in the order, moving it closer to the partisan line. The same was true in neighboring Indiana, where the margin contract to the point that the Hoosier state traded spots in the order with Nebraska. Indiana is now the most competitive of the Strong Trump states. And the two university surveys out of the Granite state nudged New Hampshire back onto the Watch List a day after at least one outlier from ARG moved it off the list.

But that was it.  Friday came and went with a raft of new polling data that mostly confirmed the status quo in this race for the White House. 

4 days to go.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 30 (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 Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
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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