Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Electoral College Map (8/6/20)

Update for August 6.

Changes (August 6)
Maine CD2
Toss Up Trump
Toss Up Biden
A busy Thursday brought 14 new polls from 11 states across all six categories at FHQ. That is a lot at which to look and despite the temptation to think that the new data provides a more robust sense of the overall state of the race, there were a few polls in the set that appear to be outliers given existing polling to this point in 2020.

Outliers though some of today's surveys may have been, there was a second poll out of the second district in Maine that shifted the jurisdiction over the partisan line and into the Toss Up Biden category, adding to the former vice president's total. Yes, the survey favored Trump, but with multiple polls, the district is now untethered from the swings in states around which it finished in November 2016. As noted below, that has been FHQ's methodological work-around for states or districts with just one or no surveys in calendar 2020. No, a couple of polls is not a significant increase in the aggregate knowledge of the race in the rural northern district in Maine, but the picture there is of a close race. And in any event, Maine's second is now on the Watch List, within a fraction of a point of shifting back onto Toss Up Trump turf.

There is more on that below, but first a quick look at the rest of today's polling releases.

Polling Quick Hits:
Arizona (Biden 47, Trump 44):
Data for Progress had a round of battleground polling in four states including Arizona. There were two versions of each poll, one with third party candidates and another with leaners (pushed with a follow up question). Over the years, FHQ has used third party candidate polls when available but has also added leaners polls when a distinction was made between versions with or without leaners. But rarely have pollsters provided two separate versions along these lines. Since the third party responses were volunteered and disappeared upon a follow up, FHQ will use the leaners versions of these polls. But note that in all cases that means a slightly larger margin for Biden, one that did not change the FHQ classification of any of the four states.

As for the Arizona survey from DfP itself, it varies little from the averages established for both candidates here at FHQ. As it stands now in the averages, Biden leads 47.5 to Trump's 44.

Indiana (Trump 55, Biden 38):
The recent wave of Morning Consult surveys in red states with potentially competitive Senate races also included a poll of the presidential race in Indiana. And although the polling has been sporadic and scarce in the Hoosier state in calendar 2020, what survey work has been done there has consistently found Biden in the upper 30s. The cause for any variance in the margins across Indiana polling so far has been Trump's share of support. But this survey has the president at his high water mark and nudges the average closer to where things were on election day in 2016. Indiana may be closer in 2020, but it remains a Strong Trump state.

Iowa (Trump 46, Biden 45 via Data for Progress | Biden 49, Trump 43 via David Binder Research):
Of the two surveys released out of the Hawkeye state, the DfP poll is more in line with where things stand given the full set of polls in the state in 2020. The Binder Research poll? Well, it simultaneously finds Biden at his apex in the state and Trump at his low point during 2020. If the former is consistent with the aggregated (and weighted) picture in Iowa, then the latter is very much an outlier (and that is largely true for the other three midwestern surveys from Binder). And while that outlier did not alter Iowa's standing at a toss up state tipped toward the president, it was enough to push the state not only onto the Watch List below but right up against the partisan line on the Electoral College Spectrum.

Kentucky (Trump 52, Biden 45 via Bluegrass Data Analytics | Trump 50, Biden 41 via Quinnipiac):
Speaking of outliers, there may be a pair of them represented in the releases out of Kentucky today. The Bluegrass state has not finished a single digit race since Bill Clinton carried the state by less than a point during his reelection bid in 1996. Kentucky may be closer in 2020 than it has been in recent cycles, but both of these polls have Biden well ahead of not only where Clinton was in 2016 but where Democrats have been on average there over the last three cycles. The same is true for Trump, but in reverse. The best way to put these two polls into context is to compare them to the average swing across all states from 2016 to 2020. On average, the shift has been about seven and three-quarters points toward the Democrats. Together, these surveys would represent a 22 point swing. There have been some large shifts in some states from election day 2016 to aggregated polling now, but none of them have been close to 22 points.

Maine (Biden 53, Trump 43 via Data for Progress | Biden 52, Trump 37 via Quinnipiac):
Meanwhile in Maine, things look a bit more normal. A Biden +10 and a Biden +15. Split the difference and one basically has something close to the FHQ average margin in the Pine Tree state: Biden +11.73. As always, follow the averages rather than the individual polls.

Maine CD1 (Biden 61, Trump 30):
The Quinnipiac survey of Maine also included a breakdown by congressional district and the picture in the pair looks largely as expected. Biden has larger lead in the more southern of the two districts, but the margin there has ballooned compared to how things were in November 2016 when Clinton won the first by around 15 points. Regardless, the district is a safe electoral vote for Biden with or without this poll.

Maine CD2 (Trump 45, Biden 44):
The second district is more competitive. And that has been borne out of the early polling there. While Trump won the second comfortably in 2016, that ten point advantage has disappeared, giving way to a very small Biden lead now. Like the first, the second district in Maine seems locked in, albeit as a toss up -- for one candidate or the other -- rather than safe.

Michigan (Biden 51, Trump 41):
While the two less frequently surveyed states of the Binder Research midwestern series are more clearly outliers, the Michigan poll is among the couple that has been both polled more often and is more in line with other polling in those states. [Wisconsin is the other.] But while that is true, the Biden +10 is on the upper end of the range of recent poll releases out of the Wolverine state. And that is more a function of Biden being over 50 percent than it is Trump's share of support. The president has been more steady in the low 40s there.

Minnesota (Biden 54, Trump 36):
Like the one in Iowa, the Binder poll in Minnesota is an outlier. Other polls of the Land of 10,000 Lakes have had Biden north of 50 percent, but none have had Trump as low as the mid-30s there. That is the story from this small sample survey. As in Iowa, it bumped the average margin in Minnesota up enough to put the state on the Watch List. But Minnesota is treading a different line than Iowa, out between the Lean and Strong Biden categories. But for now Minnesota remains a lean.

North Carolina (Biden 49, Trump 45):
In the Tar Heel state, Data for Progress found Biden up four points with the former vice president running a couple of points ahead of his FHQ average share of support. Trump, meanwhile, was right on his. Both were enough to inch the average margin in North Carolina closer to two points. Biden's has been a fairly steady but narrow lead there.

Oklahoma (Trump 56, Biden 36):
A new DFM Research survey of the Sooner state shows that while Oklahoma continues to be a safe Republican state, there has been a shift in the 2020 polling there toward the Democrats as compared to the results in 2016. And in the case of Oklahoma, that shift as measured at FHQ has been one of the largest out there. This survey, an internal Democratic poll, is right on the candidates' respective shares of support in the FHQ averages, which represents a 14-15 point shift from 2016. Yes, that is a pretty big shift in one of the most Republican states in 2016, but it is much less an outlier swing than the Kentucky example above. And the bottom line is that Oklahoma is still a safe Republican state.

South Carolina (Trump 47, Biden 42):
The Palmetto state is probably a safe bet for Trump in November too. But of late South Carolina has settled into a mid-single digit lead area for the president. And the latest survey of the state from Quinnipiac builds on that outlook. Trump is ahead but is more off his 2016 pace than Biden has improved upon Clinton's showing there four years ago. And the healthy chunk of undecideds likely affects Trump's lagging numbers as well. But this is a poll that reduced the FHQ average margin to within a point of the Toss Up/Lean line on Trump's side of the ledger.

Wisconsin (Biden 53, Trump 42):
Last but not least is the Binder Research survey of Wisconsin. Look, the story with this poll in the Badger state is much the same as the one for the Michigan poll above. It may not be an outlier by definition, but it is definitely on the upper end of the range of margins in recent polling there. Despite that, Wisconsin continues to be lodged in the heart of the Lean Biden category and that is still a significant story in a state that was among the most competitive in 2016. That it is tipped more than six points in Biden's direction says a lot about where this race stands overall at the moment.

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)
ME CD1-1
(334 | 219)
ME CD2-1
(353 | 204)
NE 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 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.

A lot of new polls brought a number of changes in the order on the Spectrum above. Maine's first district pushed deeper into the far Democratic column while Maine's second moved across the partisan line into Biden territory. That may have changed the overall tally of electoral votes, but Iowa also moved up to the partisan line as well. It is now the most competitive state on Trump's side of the line. Ohio remains the closest overall. Indiana and Kentucky also shifted around within the safest group of red states, but moved in opposite directions given new data. Indiana broke out of a cluster near the Strong/Lean Trump line and Kentucky moved closer to the top of the far right column on the Spectrum. Both are now in that column.

The Watch List below lost Indiana, Louisiana and Nebraska's second district (the latter two because, with no 2020 polls, they were partially tethered to the swing in the Hoosier state), but gained Iowa, Minnesota and South Carolina. While the former trio of jurisdictions were on the cusp of shifting into Lean Trump territory, all are now more safely Strong Trump. And the new group of states are each now within a fraction of a point of moving in a Biden direction toward the adjacent categories. But only an Iowa change would affect any alteration to the overall electoral vote tally.

And add underpolled Nevada to that list as well.

There were no new polls from Nevada today.

Days since the last Nevada poll was in the field: 98.

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
Maine CD2
from Toss Up Biden
to Toss Up Trump
from Lean Biden
to Strong Biden
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 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 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 (8/5/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/4/20)

The Electoral College Map (8/3/20)

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