Sunday, August 2, 2020

The Electoral College Map (8/2/20)

Update for August 2.

A quiet Saturday passed with no new additional state-level polls, but Sunday brought releases from a couple of the most competitive states as of now in the FHQ graduated weighted averages. And both surveys -- out of Georgia and North Carolina -- carried good news for Joe Biden. And while the former vice president narrowly led in the two southeastern states, it is important to put those leads into context. Georgia and to a lesser extent, North Carolina, are like the states along the Biden Lean/Toss Up line FHQ has written often about of late.

Take Pennsylvania. The Keystone state has repeatedly jump back and forth over that line over the last month. And that is far less a commentary on whether Pennsylvania is a lean or toss up state favoring Biden. Rather, it says more about just how far out of reach the commonwealth is for President Trump as the calendar has turned over to August, three months out from election day. Georgia is in that same category, but stuck around a different line, the partisan line between the two major party candidates' current coalitions of states. North Carolina is on the periphery of that distinction. So it may be easy to get distracted by the slight changes in the shading of those states on the map, but the continuity in where they stand both there and in the rank order of states in the Electoral College Spectrum is perhaps more important.

And to repeat something that has been said a number of times in this space, if in November the discussion is about Georgia and North Carolina being the most competitive states, then Biden is likely in a comfortable position with respect to getting to 270 electoral votes.

Polling Quick Hits:
Georgia (Biden 46, Trump 45):
To be honest, FHQ has the race in the Peach state currently pegged at Trump 46.6, Biden 46.0. The candidates are not separated by much here and they is not a significantly different gap between the two in the first YouGov survey of the state in 2020. Needless to say, both Biden and Trump are running quite close to their FHQ average shares of support in this poll. And obviously, that had minimal influence on Georgia's standing here. Well, actually, there is more on that below.

North Carolina (Biden 48, Trump 44):
YouGov was also in the field at the close of the work week in North Carolina. And the picture the firm paints in the Tar Heel state is not that much of a departure from recent polling there. Biden leads, but was only marginally running ahead of his FHQ average in the YouGov survey. The wider gap in the YouGov poll relative to the FHQ averages was more a function of Trump underperforming his his current average in the poll. But the president hitting 44 percent in North Carolina is not that out of the ordinary. It just happens to be on the lower end of the range of results for him over the last month or so.

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 | 285)
(302 | 265)
(308 | 236)
(319 | 230)
(334 | 219)
NE CD1-1
ME CD1-1
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 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 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.

Clearly, if both of the newly added surveys were not that divergent from the present state of the race in each here at FHQ, then it would have a reduced impact on the how things look here. And while that is right, there were some changes. Well, there was one notable change: Georgia and Ohio switched places on the Spectrum above. But the two are essentially tied in the rank ordering of states, separated by just a little more than one-ten thousandth of a point. Georgia and Ohio are also basically tied for being the most competitive state right now. The shift does bring the two states polled -- Georgia and North Carolina together on the Spectrum with only the partisan line between the Biden and Trump coalitions of states between them.

The Watch List remains unchanged from the last update on Friday. But as July has closed and August has begun here is some context on where the race is and what may take to make it more competitive over the next three months. One can choose an adventure of their liking: the polls are wrong, Trump has X amount of ground to make up, Trump and Republicans have to suppress the vote X amount, or some combination of those three. But assuming a uniform swing across all states in the weeks ahead...

If the race was one point closer, the map above would remain unchanged.

If the race got two points closer, North Carolina would jump the partisan line and join Trump's group of states.

If the race tightened by three points, the Tar Heel state would still be the only state to change hands.

If there was a four point shift in Trump's direction, then Arizona and Nevada (see more on the Silver state below) would turn red. But Biden would still have more than 270 electoral votes.

If five points came off Biden's advantage, then Florida, too, would slip back over into Trump territory. But Biden would still be over 270 electoral votes.

It would take a six point change -- here at FHQ anyway -- to bring states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin back to Trump given the data available to this point and get him over the 270 electoral vote threshold. That is not impossible, but that is no small change.

There were also no new polls from Nevada today. The Silver state remains underpolled, and likely not reflective of where it should be in the order on the Spectrum above. If other states that finished around Nevada in 2016 are predictive of the changes that have happened in the last four years, then Nevada would likely be in the Lean Biden category.

Days since the last Nevada poll was in the field: 94.

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 Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Toss Up Trump
to Lean Trump
Nebraska CD1
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
Nebraska CD2
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up 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 (7/31/20)

Draft Resolution Would Largely Extend 2020 Democratic Nomination Rules to 2024

The Electoral College Map (7/29/20)

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