Friday, July 24, 2020

The Electoral College Map (7/24/20)

Update for July 24.

Changes (July 24)
PennsylvaniaToss Up BidenLean Biden
With one week left in July, the presidential race has taken on a particular steady bent: toward Joe Biden. A month ago, some folks on Twitter would respond to these daily updates with something along the lines of, "This is Biden's high water mark." FHQ neither agreed nor disagreed. The polling always tells that tale.

If anything, the water level has only risen in the aggregate in the time since. But that can only be seen through certain lenses. Of late, that has meant a handful of toss up states pushing into the Lean Biden category. But in other ways the race has been on a fairly steady course. The electoral vote tally -- give or take Georgia -- has stayed largely the same. And the states that have become Biden leans have not really changed that much. They were only barely toss ups before with averages just below the five point line separating the Lean and Toss up categories.

So if Biden has seen his high water mark, then it has persisted for a while now. The extent to which that hardens -- or has already hardened -- is a fact likely not taken lightly in the halls of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue or at Trump headquarters in Arlington.

Polling Quick Hits:
Michigan (Biden 49, Trump 40 via Fox News | Biden 51, Trump 42 via Gravis):
The Spry Strategies survey showing Trump up four in the Wolverine state looks even more out of place with a couple of subsequent polls finding much the same as surveys in the field in the state in June and July. Both Fox News and Gravis have Biden up nine and both have the former vice president around the 50 percent mark. In fact, in the 16 surveys conducted in Michigan in whole or in part in June and July, Biden has been at or north of the majority threshold in half of them. Even without digging into the crosstabs, that is a less than enviable position for the incumbent president to be.

Minnesota (Biden 51, Trump 38):
Polling has been sporadic in the North Star state in 2020, but the picture the scant survey work there paints is one that indicates that it is no longer 2016. Nor does it appear as if the civil unrest in the state following George Floyd's death has changed the complexion of the race in Minnesota statewide. The Fox News poll certainly does not point toward a tightening race. If anything, the state of play in Minnesota has remained pretty stable. The FHQ average margin in Minnesota before this poll was Biden +11.5. After, it was Biden +11.8. Minnesota was one of those blue wall states in 2016, but one that barely stayed in the Democrats' column. In 2020, Minnesota does not appear to be the Minnesota of 2016.

Pennsylvania (Biden 50, Trump 39):
A day after drifting over the Lean/Toss Up line into Biden Toss Up turf, the new Fox News survey of the Keystone state snapped it right back to where it was earlier in the week. And that makes sense because, like Michigan, of the 12 polls conducted in Pennsylvania in June and July, Biden has been at or above 50 percent in seven of them. Trump, meanwhile, has been more likely to be mired in the low 40s. In that time, his average share of support has been 43 percent which is just below his adjusted average (43.6 percent) at FHQ. Yes, there are still a few months to go until election day, but the direction of this race has to turn around and probably quickly in a state the president is going to need in order to get to 270.

Wisconsin (Biden 50, Trump 42):
Gravis Marketing was also in the field in Wisconsin this week. Like the earlier Spry Strategies poll, it found Biden ahead in the Badger state. But unlike that survey, Gravis had Biden up by a larger, eight point margin. That is not inconsistent with much of the polling conducted over the last two months. As in other states, the pandemic and the civil unrest have not seemingly helped the president.  But on average, Wisconsin has moved in 2020 polling a little more than five points in the Democrats' direction compared to the 2016 results. The average shift across all states now is approaching eight points. Wisconsin, then, is currently running a bit behind that.

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
(278 | 289)
(298 | 260)
(302 | 240)
(308 | 236)
(319 | 230)
(334 | 219)
(352 | 204)
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 plus the Pennsylvania and Florida), he would have 278 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.

Pennsylvania had a short stay in the Biden toss up category, but the new polls there and in Wisconsin shook up the expanding Lean Biden group of states. Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are now all Lean Biden states, but all remain clustered in tight proximity of each other in the averages. That space between the three means that any poll could not only affect the order, but now may also dictate which state holds down the distinction of being the tipping point state. Yesterday, that was Wisconsin, but today, Florida is the new tipping point. It is also noteworthy that the Lean Biden category has expanded beyond the tipping point cell in the Electoral College Spectrum above. Biden now has a projected 298 electoral votes in Strong and Lean states alone. The Biden toss ups are now all superfluous, representing some insulation should the race turn toward Trump.

But one should also not fail to note where Nevada and New Hampshire are currently located in the order of states. Both remain Biden toss ups but both remain criminally underpolled. And honestly, given the 2020 trajectories of states that finished around both the Silver and Granite states in 2016, both are more likely Biden leans at this point, absent any new polling, than toss ups. The waiting game continues there.

The Watch List below is unchanged from a day ago. Well, the group of states included is. Pennsylvania is now a Lean Biden state, however, within a point of shifting back into the toss up category. And again, Florida and Wisconsin -- along with Nebraska's second congressional district -- are right there with Pennsylvania. But for now, all are Biden leans.

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 Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Strong Biden
to Lean Biden
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Toss Up Trump
to Lean Trump
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
Nebraska CD1
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
Nebraska CD2
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
New Hampshire
from Toss Up Biden
to Lean Biden
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
from Strong Biden
to Lean 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 (7/23/20)

The Electoral College Map (7/22/20)

The Electoral College Map (7/20/20)

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