Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Electoral College Map (9/6/20)

Update for September 6.

On the cusp of a new work week in which the countdown to election day will fall under eight weeks, there was a handful of polls to accompany the Sunday morning punditry. Yes, some battleground surveys were mixed in -- Texas and Wisconsin -- but there was also an update from New Mexico. Often talked about as a 2020 flip opportunity by the president's campaign, public polling in the Land of Enchantment, relatively scant though it has been, just has not reflected that opportunity. Rather, New Mexico has been camped out in the Strong Biden category all summer here at FHQ.

Polling Quick Hits:
New Mexico
(Biden 54, Trump 39)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +13.98]
And New Mexico's position as a Strong Biden state was not undermined by the Research and Polling Inc. survey. The former vice president has hovered in the lower 50s in all of the polling conducted there and that is true here as well. In fact, Biden is running about five points ahead of where Clinton ended up on election day 2016 in New Mexico, or right on the average share Democrats received in the Land of Enchantment over the last three presidential elections. In other words, it is a steady picture of sorts. Moreover, New Mexico is one of the states where Trump has not really gained nor lost ground relative to his showing there in 2016. Compared to more pronounced declines in other states, the president has lost less than a point off of the 40 percent he garnered there four years ago. Steady as it goes.

(Trump 48, Biden 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.16]
In the Lone Star state, UT-Tyler had another in its series of surveys there this calendar year. FHQ has spent some time in this space talking generally about the lack of volatility in this presidential race. The one exception is the ballooning margins Biden enjoyed in June that carried over into July. And like other pollsters, UT-Tyler saw a Biden bump during that period. In fact, that was Biden's only lead in this series of polls. It had been close with the race tied or Trump marginally ahead in all polls before June and is again at that level now. This survey has Trump running a little ahead of his FHQ weight average share of support while Biden is right on his. The bottom line is that this poll is just plain consistent with where the race is in Texas: much closer than usual, but still tipped in the president's favor.

(Biden 50, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.31]
This past week has been one of those weeks where nearly every day brought an update the state of the presidential race from out of the Badger state. Sunday was no exception. The latest battleground tracker from CBS News/YouGov had its first survey in the field in Wisconsin since early August, and the outlook has not changed in the wake of the back-to-back national conventions. While both Biden and Trump gained a couple of points in the interim, the margin stayed stuck at six points. And that is basically where Biden's advantage has been over the last month there, inside the Lean Biden category and just off the Watch List. But again, as with the other states above, steady is the word in Wisconsin as well.

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.

As was the case a day ago, today's batch of additions to the 2020 state-level polling dataset were all about the maintenance of the status quo. And as such, none of the three changed shades on the map, moved positions on the Electoral College Spectrum or moved onto the Watch List below. Of the three, Texas is closest to being placed on the List (within a fraction of a point of changing categories), but Wisconsin is not far behind. The difference between the two is that if the race is tightening then things are moving in Trump's direction. That would tend to push Texas further away from the partisan line and inclusion on the List and narrow the Biden advantage in Wisconsin. But it is not clear that there has been significant narrowing in the states that matter most in the quest for 270 electoral votes. Rather, the prevailing story continues to be just how steady this race is and has been other than in late June and early July. 2020 is not as stable as 2012 was -- especially here at FHQ -- but it has been pretty steady nonetheless.

Where things stood at FHQ on September 6 (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 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 (9/5/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/4/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/3/20)

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