Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/20/20)

Update for September 20.

As the weekend comes a close with just 44 days until November 3, there was another round of polls released. Seven new surveys from six states -- three current Biden states and three Trump states -- that are Lean or closer in the FHQ averages had something good for both candidates.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 48, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.74]
The Sunshine state continues to be probably the clearest example of a narrowing race. Florida still favors Biden, but that advantage has drawn closer and closer over time, and the new YouGov survey did little to alter that trajectory. If anything, the trend line in the YouGov series in Florida is a microcosm of that change. The firm was last in the field in the Sunshine state in early July and had Biden pulling in the same 48 percent support. Trump, however, has made up ground since that time, adding four percent to bring him within two.

(Trump 46, Biden 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.38]
Redfield & Wilton Strategies may not have conducted a survey in the Peach state until now, but their findings in this first poll there nearly match the established average shares of support both Biden and Trump hold at FHQ. Trump's 46 in the poll is the same as his average share of support while Biden would round up to 46 from 45.9. So it is not that far off for starters, but also has little impact on the average margin. It nudges it up in Trump's direction by the slightest amount, but keeps Georgia as the most competitive state on the president's side of the partisan line. Georgia may or may not turn blue in November, but that it is the closest state on the board says a lot about where this race stands. If Georgia remains in that position on election day, then Biden is likely going to be in good shape if the order of states holds up and the same basic uniform swing persists.

(Biden 51, Trump 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +8.25]
Redfield & Wilton Strategies also had not been in the field in the North Star state. But there, too, the firm shows a race that is remarkably consistent with the existing averages (candidate shares of support and margin) at FHQ. The 51-42 Biden lead in this survey mirrors the average 51-42 lead the former vice president has here. It is also in line with the bulk of September polling in the the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Again, as with Georgia above, such a survey does little to change the outlook in a state that has been a flip target of the Trump campaign.

(Trump 49, Biden 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +7.71]
This was the first Siena/NYT Upshot_ survey of the Treasure state, so there is no direct comparison, but it is another poll that tracks fairly closely to the existing FHQ averages. After rounding, Trump leads here 50-43. And while that is a good sign for the president, it comes with a significant caveat. Montana was a state the president carried by 20 points four years ago. And while he is unlikely to relinquish the state to Biden, the 13 point swing in the Democrats' direction is notable. In calendar 2020 polling in the state, the president has run nearly six points behind his 2016 pace, just barely cracking 50 percent. Biden, meanwhile, has boosted the Democrats' share of support by almost eight points.

(Biden 48, Trump 43 via Climate Nexus | Biden 47, Trump 45 via Trafalgar Group)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.20]
The Keystone state remains the tipping point state in the order of states depicted in the Electoral College Spectrum below and is just on the Lean side of the five point line separating the Biden Lean and Toss Up states. The Climate Nexus survey may be more in line with that, but the Trafalgar poll has the advantage of being the second poll in a series. And the early July release had Biden up by a margin consistent with the current average margin during Biden's peak period in 2020 polling. But that five point edge for the former vice president in June/July has shrunk to just two points now at Trafalgar. Unlike, say, Florida above, however, Pennsylvania has not seen the same type of narrowing of late. Mid-single digit margins in Biden's favor have been more prevalent in Pennsylvania polling in September.

(Trump 48, Biden 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.14]
Finally, another YouGov battleground tracker continues to show a close race for Texas' 38 electoral votes. The Lone Star state continues to tilt in Trump's direction, but it also continues to be much closer than it has in more than a generation. But the persistence of that narrow advantage for the president there can be seen in the two polls conducted by YouGov in Texas. The one point lead Trump had in the July poll has bumped up to two in September with the president trending toward 50 percent. No, that is not indicative of any tightening, but it is evidence that some wavering support has come home to the president in Texas.

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
(273 | 285)
(279 | 265)
(308 | 259)
ME CD2-1
(320 | 230)
NE CD1-1
(335 | 218)
ME CD1-1
NE 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 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 Trump's is on the right in bold italics.

3 Pennsylvania
 is the state where Biden crosses the 270 electoral vote threshold to win the presidential election, the tipping point state. The tipping point cell is shaded in yellow to denote that and the font color is adjusted to attempt to reflect the category in which the state is.

Three red state polls and three blue state polls did little to alter the outlook here at FHQ despite coming from a host of states that are among the most highly targeted. In most cases, the polls ended up closely mirroring the existing graduated weighted averages. The map remained the same and the Spectrum and Watch List did as well. The race will enter the new work week -- just six weeks out from election day -- looking much as it did when the last week began.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 20 (or close to it) in...

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 Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Toss Up Biden
to Lean Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
South Carolina
from Lean Trump
to Toss Up Trump
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 (9/19/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/18/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/17/20)

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