Saturday, September 5, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/5/20)

Update for September 5.

While there were no new state-level surveys released on Saturday, there are a few late Friday polls to add from the most closely watched of the Rust Belt states: Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Three are from the blue wall states that shifted into the Republicans' column in 2016 and are all from Hodas & Associates. Normally, FHQ would take those as a group in the Quick Hits below, but all were in the field at different times around convention season, making it harder to stack them up among each other. Yet, even considering the different times in which they were conducted, those polls all align Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the order in which they are graphically depicted in the Electoral College Spectrum below.

In any event, these four states are all closely clustered together in the rank order and are only separated by New Hampshire. All four states also figure into the calculus of Biden or Trump getting to 270. And all four are favoring Biden by at least 5.25 points. That quartet figures prominently in Biden's path to 270 -- they are all blue at the moment -- but Trump would need one (Pennsylvania) if not two (Michigan and one other or Minnesota and Wisconsin) to get there. The latter scenarios would break with the order established below, but that group has continued to draw a little closer together in recent days, a function of the margin in Minnesota growing more narrow.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 52, Trump 41)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.35]
The Hodas poll in the Great Lakes state was conducted before the Democratic convention -- so before convention season -- and represents no real change from the July Hodas survey there. In fact, other than the June Michigan poll, the firm has shown a pretty steady Biden lead throughout the series. The former vice president has often hovered around or just above 50 percent while Trump has fluctuated in the low to mid-40s.

(Biden 52, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.39]
One break in the Hodas polls today is the most recent Public Policy Polling survey of Minnesota. And again, as was the case with the Michigan poll above, mostly steady is the take home message from the poll. Yes, Trump tacked on a couple of percentage points of extra support between the July PPP survey and now, but Biden held steady at 52 precent and his average share at FHQ remains just above 50 percent. Trump can gain all he likes between now and election day, but if Biden stays above the majority threshold heading into November, then that will not really matter. But those further Trump would also assume that the undecideds still out there break the president's way.

(Biden 51, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.25]
While the Michigan poll from Hodas was in the field before the Democratic convention, the Pennsylvania survey from the firm was conducted during and after the tail end of the Republican convention. Compared to the July poll Hodas conducted in the Keystone state, there was no change, and that would seem to suggest that neither convention had much effect or that the Republican convention effective countered the Democrats' virtual confab. That story is similar to the Michigan trend line (or lack thereof), but the overall trend line from Hodas in Pennsylvania has not shown the same steady outlook. The same June blip was there showing a larger Biden advantage, but it was in line the series after the pollster had shown the race tied (in March and April) and Trump up five points in May. The commonwealth may have settled in through the Hodas lens in the summer, then, but it has overall not been the steady race the firm has shown in Michigan.

(Biden 52, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.32]
The other two Hodas polls serve as kind of bookends before and after convention season. However, the Wisconsin survey was conducted the four days of the Democratic convention. And even if that could have the potential -- hypothetically -- to help the former vice president, it did not as compared to the July survey in the series. Biden stayed right at 52 percent, but Trump gained six points from July to August bolstering his support after reaching his nadir in the Hodas polling of the Badger state.   This August survey of Wisconsin is the closest Trump has been to Biden in the series since April. It was the April to May transition that saw Biden's advantage grow, a bit ahead of where it occurred in the sequence for Michigan and Pennsylvania. But in August, Wisconsin broke from the steady as it goes pattern exhibited in Michigan and Pennsylvania. And that did not really help the president. It just brought Hodas more in line with the average margin (if not candidate shares of support) at FHQ.

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 | 286)
(279 | 265)
(308 | 259)
(319 | 230)
NE CD1-1
ME CD2-1
(335 | 219)
ME 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 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 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. 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.

All four of these states are among the most closely watched of 2020. And with the exception of Minnesota are among the most frequently surveyed. Yet, none of the polls added for today's update did anything to change the basic order of these four states among each other much less overall. All are Biden leans at the moment and have been there for most of the summer (again, with the exception of Minnesota). And what that means here is that the map, Spectrum and Watch List all remain unchanged on September 5. Pennsylvania continues to be the tipping point state and the same ten states and districts that are the most likely to change categories remain the mostly likely to change given new polling data. But that will have to wait for another day.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 5 (or close to it) in...
[For whatever reason -- weekend and/or no polls -- there have been no past FHQ electoral college updates on September 5.]

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 Biden
to Lean Biden
Maine CD2
from Toss Up Biden
to Toss Up Trump
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
Nebraska CD2
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
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 (9/4/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/3/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/2/20)

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