Monday, September 28, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/28/20)

Update for September 28.

As strange as it may be to say, the new work week began with a handful of new surveys from exclusively targeted states (and districts), and the least competitive of the bunch was the latest from Nebraska's second congressional district. Normally, one would see Nebraska and the immediate reaction may be comfortably red. And while the statewide margin may in fact place the Cornhusker state well into President Trump's coalition of states, the competitive, Omaha-area district is not. Moreover, the more polls that come in from the second continue to confirm that NE CD2 is a lot like Michigan in terms of its swing since 2016. Yes, the second has swung a bit more, but the two jurisdictions are within range of each other in the order on the Electoral College Spectrum below. And both are tucked into the heart of the Lean Biden category as of now.

Polling Quick Hits:
Nebraska CD2
(Biden 48, Trump 41)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.72]
Like much of the polling in Nebraska's second, the Siena/NYT Upshot has the former vice president up seven points. No, there has not been a ton of polling there, but it has consistently pointed to a very tight range with Biden basically up seven. And what may have been greeted as something of an outlier when the first public poll was released in early July does not look as much so in the face of subsequent (and similar) surveys. Like a number of the Siena polls, this one has a higher than some (most?) state-level surveys level of undecideds and others support. So while the candidates' shares in the poll may come in behind where the average margin currently sits, the margin is right on target.

(Biden 46, Trump 41)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +4.86]
Once upon a time FHQ pined for new polling out of the Silver state and even tracked how many days it had been since the then last poll in April. The streak came to an end last month and things have picked up some in the time since. In the last week alone there have been four new polls including the latest update from UNLV Business School. It was the August survey from UNLV that ended the dry spell, and although both candidates gained over the intervening period, Biden maintained a five point edge, one consistent with the current average margin here at FHQ. Some volatility may have been introduced into the Nevada dataset in some recent polls, but this UNLV survey represents a return to the tight Biden +3-5 point range that has existed in most Silver state surveys.

North Carolina
(Biden 46, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.46]
Speaking of consistency, North Carolina, too, has settled into a seemingly predictable range in its recent polls as well and that is reflected in the new Meredith College poll of the Tar Heel state. As FHQ has noted what seems like a countless number of times, North Carolina is close. Of the polls conducted completely in the month of September, no candidate has led by any more than three points and Biden +1-2 has become a common result. But that has not always been the case. The last Meredith poll in April, for example, had the former vice president up seven points. And that was a time that preceded Biden's surge in the polls. In the move from a registered to likely voter sample, Trump gained pushing into the mid-40s while Biden remained consistently in the mid- to upper 40s. North Carolina, then, may be a toss up, but it has consistently been tipped in the former vice president's direction.

(Biden 50, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.06]
Not to be left out of the discussion, Pennsylvania has also witnessed a consistency in its recent polling. The margin is a bit bigger than in North Carolina, but more often than not, Biden ends up with an advantage in the mid-single digits. There are some exceptions to that, but the TIPP survey conducted in conjunction with The Federalist is not one of them. It has both candidates running slightly ahead of their average shares, but that five point margin is right where the race has been for a while now. Things have gotten closer in the Keystone state, but the extent of that change has been to reduced the former vice president's lead from five and a quarter points to near five. It has been more of a plateauing than a free fall to a dead heat for the commonwealth's 20 electoral votes.

(Trump 48, Biden 48)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.14]
Texas polling may have been a bit more variable and consistently had the president ahead, but Public Policy Polling_ surveys in the Lone Star state have regularly been in the one to two point range. That now extends through seven surveys in calendar 2020. Trump definitely leads for the 38 electoral votes Texas will offer in November. However, Texas is to Trump what North Carolina is to Biden: a state that is a top up and where both candidates have either had leads or have consistently run close to one another.

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)
(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 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 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.

Despite five new polls from some of the most targeted if not competitive states on the board in 2020, nothing changed at FHQ to open the week just five weeks out from election day. Nevada slipped under the Lean/Toss Up line on the Biden side of the ledger yesterday and held steady today with the introduction of new data. But again, take note of how close it remains to the that line. The Silver state continues to hold a spot on the Watch List.

But the bottom line today with just 36 days left until voting concludes in this presidential race is how steady things have been. There are some subtle changes from time to time, but the map, Spectrum and Watch List have had consistency of their own over time. To this point, other than the Biden surge in June and July, this race has resembled to some extent the steadiness of the 2012 race. Like then, most people have made up their mind about the incumbent. The question that remains is what turnout will look like.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 28 (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 Toss Up Biden
to Lean Biden
from Toss Up Biden
to Toss Up Trump
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
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 (9/27/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/26/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/25/20)

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