Friday, September 25, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/25/20)

 Update for September 25.

Changes (September 25)
Toss Up Biden
Lean Biden
Toss Up Trump
Toss Up Biden
It was September 1 when last there was a change to the overall electoral vote tally at FHQ. Then it was Ohio drifting over the partisan line onto Toss Up Trump turf. And in the time after the conventions, it was not unreasonable to think that close as the Buckeye state may be over the remainder of the race, it would not necessarily jump the partisan line to join the Biden coalition of states. Well, close Ohio has remained in the intervening weeks, and on the weight of yesterday's Fox News poll, the state has, in fact, moved back over to Toss Up Biden territory, raising the former vice president's total projected number of electoral votes to 353. That would put Biden in between the Obama 2008 on the high end and Obama 2012 on the low end.

Yet, there are still 39 days to go until election day as the race enters this final weekend before the first presidential debate next week. There is, then, still time for things to change. And Ohio may very well be first in line to move back over the partisan line once again. Biden's current lead there is a not exactly insurmountable 0.08 points.

Elsewhere on the Friday poll release front...

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 46, Biden 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.36]
The last time Data for Progress_ was in the field in Arizona in early August, Biden led by three points. In the time since then, Trump has gained a couple of points, seemingly at Biden's expense creating a four point swing and a Trump lead in the latter survey in the series. Polls of Arizona with the president ahead have been few and far between all year, but this is the second one in the last few days. But unlike that ABC/WaPo survey of the Grand Canyon state, this one was more consistent on the Trump number than on Biden's. Biden, in this one, was toward the lower end of his range in recent polling while the president was in the heart of his. The opposite was true of the ABC/WaPo poll.

(Biden 67, Trump 28)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +30.23]
There is not a whole lot to make of the update in California from UC-Berkeley. The university pollster last conducted a survey in the Golden state back at the end of the July and found the same 67-28 advantage for Biden. That is not only no change over those last nearly two months, but this poll matches the largest margin in California polling in calendar 2020.

(Biden 46, Trump 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.41]
For all the talk about the narrowing of the race in the Sunshine state, there is still a certain consistency there. Yes, the margin has come down in recent weeks, but looking more closely, Biden +3 has become a predictable outcome to polls in September. Of the 19 surveys conducted in whole or in party during this month so far, Biden has led by three points in nearly half of them (9 of 19). And that group includes the latest Data for Progress survey of Florida. Both candidates may come in a little behind their established FHQ averages in this poll, but both are off by about the same amount.

(Biden 50, Trump 39)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +12.79]

Maine CD1
(Biden 54, Trump 36)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +23.00]

Maine CD2
(Biden 46, Trump 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +2.46]
Further north in Maine, Colby College released poll results to a survey that closely resembled the status quo there. Biden was out in front statewide, way ahead in the first district and narrowly ahead in the second. And it was in the least competitive of the three where the poll diverged the most from the FHQ average shares for both candidates. Biden lagged three point behind his share there while Trump ran a couple of points ahead of his. But consistency is the name of the game with this survey.

(Biden 62, Trump 30)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +28.76]
There has not been much survey work in the Old Line state so far in calendar 2020, so the new poll from OpinionWorks had the potential to really uproot Maryland in the order depicted on the Electoral College Spectrum below. And it did. The 32 point margin is basically 25 percent greater than in the other surveys there and expanded Biden's lead to more than 28 points in the graduated weighted average of the margin. That pushed Maryland deeper into Biden's coalition of states.

(Biden 47, Trump 40)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +8.14]
At one time it looked as if the race for Minnesota's ten electoral votes was tightening, but most of the polling there -- including this latest Suffolk survey -- has found the race comfortably in the Lean category range (five to ten points). There are exceptions, of course, but they are rare. However, while the margin in this poll fell in that range, there was still room for growth for both candidates. Although this was a likely voter sample, there remained more than ten percent of respondents who were either undecided or have to this point thrown their support behind a minor party candidate.

(Biden 52, Trump 41 via Fox News | Biden 47, Trump 43 via ALG Research)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.82]
Ohio grabbed all the attention at the outset for jumping the partisan line into Biden territory, but Nevada also changed categories mainly on the weight of the latest Fox News poll there. That eleven point Biden lead is a bit rosy for the former vice president compared to other Silver state surveys. In fact, other than the other Fox News poll (of registered voters) back in January, no poll has found the race outside of a Biden +3-5 range. But those two polls -- even the discounted Biden +8 Fox poll from the first week of the year -- have nudged Nevada over the Lean/Toss Up line into Lean status. But Biden's advantage there is just inside the lower end of the Lean category, so Nevada remains on the Watch List. The likely switch now, however, is from Lean to Toss Up instead of the reverse.

(Biden 50, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +0.08]
The impact of the new Fox News poll of Ohio is clear enough. By the slimmest of margins, the Biden +5 has moved the Buckeye state over the partisan line into Biden's coalition of states. Putting this one into context, however, reveals that 1) Fox has been Biden-favorable in its 2020 polls of Ohio and 2) that that manifests itself through a Biden share of support that comes in well above his established average based on the full world of 2020 Ohio polling. While Trump's share is generally within his range, the Biden share in the Fox poll has him about four points ahead of his. Back in June it was Biden who was right on his share in that Fox poll, and Trump under his. This one looks like an outlier if only because this is just the second time the former vice president has reached 50 percent in any poll in the Buckeye state.

(Biden 51, Trump 44 via Fox News | Biden 48, Trump 46 via Trafalgar Group)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.06]
That has not been the case in the Keystone state. Fox News has consistently over three polls had Biden at or over 50 percent. But only now in the first likely voter survey the firm has conducted in Pennsylvania has Trump caught up with his FHQ average in the state. Meanwhile Trafalgar has Trump running ahead of his average and Biden slightly behind his. Neither of these polls is too far off the mark compared to other recent polling in Pennsylvania. Both have the candidates with their established ranges. Pennsylvania -- still the tipping point state -- continues to flirt with that Lean/Toss Up line on the Biden side and has consistently stayed just above it for a while now.

(Trump 46, Biden 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.18]
Finally, in Texas, Data for Progress showed a close race for the Lone Star state's 38 electoral votes. And this survey is basically right on the 47-46 advantage Trump holds in the state (after rounding). Things did not change much from yesterday when Texas came off the Watch List but remained in range. In fact, the margin ticked down just a hair but continues to be tipped in the president's direction.

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
(279 | 279)
(308 | 259)
ME CD2-1
(320 | 230)
NE CD1-1
(335 | 218)
(353 | 203)
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 279 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.

Obviously, the Nevada and Ohio moves will grab the headlines today, but there was some other movement beyond those two. Still close in their margins, Arizona and Florida once again switched spots in the order on the Electoral College Spectrum with the Grand Canyon state pushing closer to the partisan line. But as always in the situations, it is best not to get caught up in the maneuvering so much as how close the two are. Any new polls of the two has the potential to flip them again. Further out on the blue end of the Spectrum, ME CD1 shifted down a cell while Maryland moved up a couple of cells toward the left end of the Spectrum.

The Watch List continued to comprise the same ten states as it did a day ago, but the potential changes in both Nevada and Ohio have flipped since then with their category changes. But again, both are still close enough to those lines and could move back given any new polling data. Time will tell, but for now, the electoral vote tally is now projected at 353-185 again.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 25 (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 Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
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 (9/24/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/23/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/22/20)

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