Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Electoral College Map (8/20/20)

Update for August 20.

As the final night of the Democratic National Convention is set to commence another series of polls a trio of presidential targets has been released. And contained therein is a bit of a choose your own adventure situation that is fueled by a couple of outlier polls; one favoring the president and the other the former vice president. And in the middle of the two sits a survey from tipping point Pennsylvania that is more realistically within the existing range of results in the commonwealth.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 47, Trump 47):
In the Land of 10,000 Lakes is the outlier favoring Trump (at least favoring him relative to other recent polling in the state). Trafalgar Group finds the two major party candidates knotted at 47 percent each. August may be different for the president in Minnesota, but both of the surveys conducted this month there have had the president in the upper 40s, territory he has not tended to have occupied in other recent polling in the state. This survey for Biden, on the other hand, represents his low point in Minnesota polling in calendar 2020. Again, these results are not necessarily out of the realm of possibility given natural polling variability, but this poll does stand out from the other polling that was in the field in June and July.

(Biden 49, Trump 45):
In another blue wall state -- one that unlike Minnesota flipped to Trump in 2016 -- Biden maintains a narrow lead, but one that is much more on par with other August surveys of the Keystone state. Yes, the four point advantage in the Muhlenberg survey runs a little behind the FHQ average (Biden +5.15) and the average margin in August polls in Pennsylvania (Biden +5.5), but it is much more consistent with the narrow range of results witnessed in those polls during this month.

(Biden 47, Trump 45):
The Biden-favorable outlier comes from out of Texas. Global Strategy Group tested the presidential race in a survey on the railroad commissioners race in the Lone Star state and had the former vice president up a couple of points. In the grand scheme of Texas polling in calendar 2020 (and especially over the summer months thus far), that is not an outlier. However, since mid-July the Trump leads in polls where the president was ahead have increased from a couple of points give or take to a series of mid-single digit edges. So while the Biden tail of that range may have remained stable, the Trump side has stretched out some, taking the overall average margin at FHQ with it. Once often on the Watch List below, Texas keeps inching further and further away. The race in the Lone Star state remains close, but that average advantage for the president has ticked up to Trump +1.5.

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 CD2-1
(273 | 286)
(302 | 265)
(308 | 236)
(319 | 230)
NE CD1-1
(334 | 219)
ME CD2-1
(353 | 204)
ME CD1-1
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 286 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 Pennsylvania
 is the state where Biden crosses the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election, the tipping point state.

Despite a couple of outliers, neither really had much effect on the placement of either state in the rank ordering depicted in the Electoral College Spectrum above. Texas is among the closest states on the Trump side of the partisan line, but there is more separation between with and Georgia and Iowa today than there was yesterday before this new poll was added. The opposite is true in Minnesota. The outlier poll there brought the state further away from the line between the Strong and Lean Biden states and reduced the gap between Minnesota and other Lean Biden states like Michigan and New Hampshire.

Pennsylvania continued to hold down the tipping point state distinction, its average margin barely budged after the addition of a status quo maintaining poll.

The Watch List, too, remains unchanged from a day ago. The 13 states and districts and underpolled Nevada are still the states to watch. New polling could alter were any of them are here at FHQ.

There were no new polls from Nevada today.

Days since the last Nevada poll was in the field: 112.

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 Lean Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
from Strong Biden
to Lean Biden
Maine CD2
from Toss Up Biden
to Toss Up Trump
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Toss Up Trump
to Lean Trump
Nebraska CD2
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
from Toss Up Biden
to Toss Up Trump
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
South Carolina
from Lean Trump
to Toss Up 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 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 (8/19/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/18/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/17/20)

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