Wednesday, June 17, 2020

The Electoral College Map (6/17/20)

Update for June 17.

The battleground state polls from Change Research did little to shake things up in the FHQ state averages on Wednesday. Other than Florida, the surveys in the other states -- Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- showed a tighter race than has been the case in the most recent polling in those states. But compared to the FHQ projections, given the information at this point in the race, the picture was mixed.

Yes, Biden was ahead in all six states as he is in the averages here in this space. But compared to the averages, the Change polls had the margin running ahead of the averages (wider gap) in Florida, North Carolina and barely Wisconsin and behind in Arizona and Michigan (especially given the recent double digit margins that have come out of the Wolverine state). The poll in Pennsylvania, meanwhile, was basically on par with the FHQ averages.

What does that mean?

Not much this early in the race. The map remains unchanged above, but there was some meaningful movement in the rank ordering of states in the Electoral College Spectrum below. Importantly, Arizona and Florida switched places around Wisconsin, changing and raising the tipping point one cell. Florida is now that tipping point state where the candidates would cross the 270 electoral vote threshold if Biden or Trump won all of the states up to and including the Sunshine state in the order.

And Florida will be pivotal throughout this campaign. With 29 electoral votes at stake, it provides a level of cushion to the candidate who can claim it relative to some of the other toss up states.

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
NE CD1-1
ME CD1-1
NE CD2-1
ME 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 Florida (Biden's toss up states up to Florida), he would have 289 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 Trumps's is on the right in bold italics.

To keep the figure to 50 cells, Washington, DC and its three electoral votes are included in the beginning total on the Democratic side of the spectrum. The District has historically been the most Democratic state in the Electoral College.

3 Florida
 is the state where Biden crosses the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election, the tipping point state.

Another day passes without any new information out of Minnesota, Nevada or New Hampshire, a trio of states where polling has been scant and unavailable in recent weeks. That is also a group of states that may appear a little closer than they actually are because of that recent relative lack of survey work in each. Movement that has been picked up in other states is not reflected in the FHQ averages, Instead, the most recent poll continues to carry full weight while older polls continue to have a decreasing influence in the equation.

In any event, those three states are worth keeping an eye on simply because any new polling may change the outlook. Two of the three remain, however, off the Watch List below. As it stands, the only two toss up states on the List are Minnesota and Ohio (as is Nebraska's second congressional district). And while Ohio jumping to its nearest adjoining category would alter the electoral vote tally, Minnesota and Nebraska's second are on the verge of pushing into safer Biden territory and contract the overall group of toss up states on both sides of the partisan line.

*Minnesota did join the Watch List today because the change in daily weight decay on older polls pushed the margin there just above four points. It is now within less than a point of moving into the Lean Biden category, but only just barely.

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
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Toss Up Biden
to Lean Biden
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
Nebraska CD1
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
Nebraska CD2
from Toss Up Biden
to Lean Biden
from Toss Up Biden
to Toss Up Trump
South Carolina
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
from Strong Biden
to Lean 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 the thad 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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