Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/6/20)

Update for October 6.

Changes (October 6)
New Mexico
Lean Biden
Strong Biden
Just four weeks stand in the way of now and election day. And the picture remains a fairly steady one here at FHQ. Yes, there will from time to time be some subtle changes, but that is mainly how it has been since these updates began in mid-June. Some states change categories. Fewer have jumped the partisan line. The latter group to this point has only included Georgia, Maine's second congressional district and Ohio. Both of the states have been over the partisan line and back again while ME CD2 has shifted from Trump to Biden and stayed there for the time being.

The former group includes New Mexico which today, after a brief stop in Lean Biden territory, shifted back to Strong Biden and pushed the former vice president's projected electoral vote total in the Strong category alone to 216. That category alone continues to project more electoral votes for Biden than all of Trump's three categories combined. But the poll in New Mexico was not the only one on the day.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 49, Trump 45 via Strategies 360 | Biden 46, Trump 45 via HighGround)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.21]
Of the two new polls from Arizona (not counting the Change Research poll below), only HighGround has perviously conducted a survey in the Grand Canyon state. And consistent with the steady picture theme above, the change since that May poll has been next to nothing. Biden maintained his advantage but lost a point while Trump stayed at 45 percent. That has Biden under his average in the state and Trump right on his. But overall, the first Strategies 360 survey in Arizona better approximates where the race is in the averages here at FHQ.

(Biden 45, Trump 45 via Suffolk | Biden 51, Trump 45 via University of North Florida)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.28]
The Sunshine state also saw a pair of new surveys (and another from Change Research), and it was a pick one's own narrative couple of polls. Take the tie from Suffolk and the Biden +6 from UNF, average them, and one gets pretty close to where the current average margin rests in Florida at FHQ (Biden 48-45, rounded). This is the first Suffolk poll of Florida, but the focus should rest on the series from UNF. A narrow one point Biden lead in a February poll expanded to six point (both among registered voters). That six point edge from April has held for the former vice president in the shift to likely voters in the latest survey. Again, Florida has leveled off in the Biden +3 area in recent days and nothing in today's set of of polls from the Sunshine state does much to alter that.

(Biden 51, Trump 40)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +13.80]

Maine CD1
(Biden 62, Trump 30)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +24.29]

Maine CD2
(Trump 49, Biden 41)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.27]
Critical Insights returned to the field in Maine for the first time since early August and the most noticeable difference across the two polls is the drop in the percentage of respondents favoring a minor party candidate or remaining undecided. Both basically halved statewide, pushing Biden's advantage up a few points. But the impact of that change was disproportionate on the congressional district level. A much larger share of undecideds in the second district in the first poll in the series seems to have filtered toward the president in the time since. No, this is not a panel poll, so there are different respondents in the two samples. It is more complicated than that, but the swing in CD2 runs counter to the trajectory of other recent polling on the state level. It swung hard toward the president, taking a one point Biden advantage in August and turning it into an eight point lead for Trump now. But that was offset by a significant shift in CD1 as well. The former vice president's August lead doubled to 32 points now. In the end, take all of the district level chatter with a grain of salt. The subsamples in both were under 250 respondents. Large margins of error are involved. And that likely better explains the change poll-over-poll than any specific change in either of districts. 

New Mexico
(Biden 53, Trump 39)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +10.02]
The more things change the more they stay the same can probably best sum up the state of play in the Land of Enchantment. Public Policy Polling last conducted a poll there in June and found Biden up by the exact same 53-39 margin. And although New Mexico recently pushed into the upper end of the Lean Biden category, this poll nudges the average margin there back up above the ten point barrier that separates Strong from Lean in FHQ's typology. The stay was brief, but New Mexico's two days in among the Lean Biden states is over for now. 

North Carolina
(Biden 50, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.53]
The last update in the Tar Heel state from East Carolina_ saw the transition from registered to likely voters in the sample break a previous tie and elevate President Trump to the lead in the state. But the latest poll from ECU -- in the field completely after the first presidential debate last week and mostly after the president's Covid diagnosis -- has the president's late August edge disappearing in September, replaced by the largest Biden lead in the series all year. Not only that, but the former vice president is the first to hit 50 percent in an ECU survey. But while the poll is consistent on the average Trump share at FHQ, it finds Biden nearly three points out in front of his. But Biden has hit or exceeded 50 percent in four of the last five polls in the Tar Heel state. 

(Biden 53, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.40]
Another Monmouth survey -- this on from Pennsylvania -- offers another opportunity to explore the university pollster's multiple assumptions about turnout in 2020. FHQ has consistently used the low turnout model in the data and that more often than not favors the president, but not always. FHQ has also tried to report the differences using one or the other assumption about turnout would have on the average margin here. But put a pin in that for a second and shift the focus to the Monmouth series in the Keystone state. This update looks more like the July poll (Biden 51-44) than the August poll (Biden 48-47) that gave at least some credence to the idea of a narrowing race even if it was added during a period when there were far more mid- and upper single digit leads for the former vice president. That low turnout version of the poll was not necessarily an outlier at the time, but it was on the low end of the range of results. [NOTE: In this case, having used the high turnout data over the low turnout version would have raised Biden's edge by 0.05 points.]

Change Research (October wave)

Arizona: Biden +6 (Biden +2, Trump +2 since last wave)
Florida: Biden +4 (Biden +1, Trump +/-0)
Michigan: Biden +8 (Biden +/-0, Trump +/-0) [Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.08]
North Carolina: Biden +2 (Biden +1, Trump +1)
Pennsylvania: Biden +4 (Biden +1, Trump +1)
Wisconsin: Biden +7 (Biden +/-0, Trump +2) [Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.14]

It is likely safe to say that these Change Research battleground polls are conducted too frequently to see any real changes in the race in any of the core six battlegrounds. FHQ ends up saying that almost every time a new wave emerges in any event. This latest wave is no different. But that does not mean the data is useless. Instead, it can be interpreted as another datapoint suggesting that the overall race continues to be steady. That said, Arizona continues to fall out of sequence in these updates. It is a bit more Biden-friendly (and Pennsylvania a little less so) than the established averages here would otherwise indicate. But results in both states are in line with other polling in each.

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.

Although New Mexico changed shades of blue on the map and flipped its potential change on the Watch List below, the state stayed exactly where it was in the rank ordering of state depicted on the Electoral College Spectrum above. And that is far enough out to the left of the partisan line to likely be an unrealistic flip opportunity for the president's reelection campaign. ME CD2, however, may not be. Yes, Trump won the rural northern district in Maine last time, but has work to do to bring it back into his column in order to successfully defend the territory in 2020. The new Critical Insights polls accomplishes some of that work, pulling the second up against the partisan line but on the Trump side of light blue North Carolina.

ME CD1 also nudged past Connecticut far off on the left flank of the Spectrum. It was a subtle move, but a change nonetheless.

Everything else remained the same as a day ago. Pennsylvania is still the tipping point state where Biden is projected to cross 270 electoral votes (or Trump would should he make up some ground over the next four weeks). And the Watch List continues to comprise the same five states as Monday, albeit with New Mexico likely to switch to from Strong to Lean rather than vice versa.

Four weeks to go.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 6 (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:
The Electoral College Map (10/5/20)

The Electoral College Map (10/4/20)

The Electoral College Map (10/3/20)

Follow FHQ on TwitterInstagram and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

No comments: