Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/11/20)

Update for October 11.

As the weekend pushed into Sunday, there was another raft of battleground polling across a number of toss ups and in some of those most targeted states around the Great Lakes region. But of the the seven surveys in that group of six states, only the YouGov survey of Nevada diverged any more than a couple of points from where the average margins currently stand at FHQ. And the three blue wall state updates from Baldwin-Wallace were all within half a point of their FHQ averages. All told, that is not a recipe for much change and continues to highlight the gap between the steady state that continues to be state-level polling relative to the recent jump Biden has gotten in national polls. 

But the focus here is on those state polls. Here is what the day had to offer.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 49, Trump 49)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.04]
In the Hawkeye state, YouGov was in the field for the first time and found the race tied at 49 with leaners included. With the undecideds pushed, both candidates' shares of support ended up a bit north of the 47-46 (rounded) edge the president currently has in the FHQ averages. But what was of note about the YouGov exercise was that both candidates evenly split those leaners once distributed after the follow up question. Iowa, like a number of the Trump toss ups is close and continues in polling to indicate a sizable shift from the 2016 election results.

(Biden 52, Trump 46 via YouGov | Biden 50, Trump 43 via Baldwin-Wallace)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.15]
From a state that looks like it is on course to be one of the most narrowly decided of 2020 to one that was among the tight blue wall flips Trump engineered in 2016, the status quo was maintained. The pair of Michigan surveys not only had Biden ahead by margins near his average there, but also both had the former vice president at or above 50 percent. Biden has already been closing in on that majority mark and inches even closer now (currently 49.7 percent). Indeed, of the eight polls conducted in whole or in part in Michigan in the month of October, Biden has been at or north of 50 percent in all but one of them. Getting there is important on some level, but the emerging consistency of Biden holding a majority of support is more indicative.

(Biden 52, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.83]
Underpolled Nevada also got the YouGov treatment, the first survey for the firm in the Silver state as well. Here, too, Biden was above 50 percent. However, as in Iowa above, the redistribution of leaners from undecided/other split evenly across the two candidates. But this is a survey where the inclusion of the leaners pulled Trump within range of his average share of support in Silver state polling, but had Biden well out in front of of his. Unlike in Michigan, Biden's instances above 50 percent have been fewer and farther between in Nevada. [But note that while Nevada has been underpolled all cycle, Michigan has not. The Great Lakes state is the most frequently surveyed state on the board.]

(Trump 47, Biden 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.45]
The only place where Baldwin-Wallace's update across the Rust Belt did not find Biden ahead was in Ohio. And that is entirely reasonable considering how distant the Buckeye state ended up being from the three blue wall states in November 2016 and how consistently it has been on Trump's side of the ledger in 2020 polling thus far. Ohio remains a state slightly tilted in the president's favor and this B-W poll reflects that. In fact, Biden led a month ago in the last B-W survey of the state and remained steady at 45 percent over the intervening period. Trump, on the other hand, rose to 47 percent, returning to a level in the Buckeye state he had not enjoyed (in this series of polls) since the university pollster's March survey (of registered voters). That brings the president back in line with his FHQ average while it keeps Biden in range of his FHQ share of support. 

(Biden 50, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.50]
Trump may have been the candidate to gain poll-over-poll in the Baldwin-Wallace series from September to now in Ohio, but that was not the case in Pennsylvania. In fact, the roles were reversed in the Keystone state. There, Biden gained over last month, pushing to 50 percent, as the president held pat at 45 percent. As in Michigan, Biden is inching toward 50 percent in his average share of support in the commonwealth. And just as in Michigan, October polling has been to the former vice president's benefit in Pennsylvania as well. Of the nine polls conducted in whole or in part in October there, Biden has topped 50 percent in seven of them. Closing in on election day, a campaign would much rather be in Biden's shoes than in Trump's. The latter will have to make up ground and attempt to erode support for his opponent. That is no small task with little more than three weeks until voting concludes on November 3. 

(Biden 49, Trump 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.19]
Biden's advantage was largest in the September wave of Baldwin-Wallace polls in Wisconsin but returned to something closer to the mean in October. The nine point advantage the former vice president held last month is down to six points now. But again, the change brings the Badger state back in line with the FHQ averages. In fact, the poll matches the current FHQ averages in Wisconsin and pulls the state back into alignment with the order among the blue wall states on the Electoral College Spectrum below with Michigan the mot distant from the partisan line and Wisconsin and then Pennsylvania a notch closer to the barrier separating the Biden and Trump coalitions of states. 

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)
(319 | 230)
NE CD1-1
ME CD2-1
(335 | 219)
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.

FHQ may have led with the big reveal in the introduction above and stolen whatever thunder this section may have contained. With a series of polls so closely in line with the existing averages, Sunday was not a day in which there were going to be big changes to how things have looked around here in ultimately what has been a fairly steady race. The map, Spectrum, and Watch List all carried over unchanged from Saturday. And that means that Pennsylvania remains firmly planted in the tipping point spot in the order of states and that the five states that have been within a point of shifting categories for the last week are all still there today as the weekend comes to a close. 

And as a new work week is at hand -- a week in which the calendar will go under three weeks until November 3 -- both the overall steadiness of this race and the gap between the state-level and national polls bear close observation. It seems unsustainable that that gap would persist and that either the national polls will start to bounce back and converge with the steadier state polls or that the state polls will begin to track with those more frequent national polls and begin to reveal the contours of a possible landslide in this presidential contest.

Regardless, 23 days to go.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 11 (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
New Hampshire
from Strong Biden
to Lean Biden
New Mexico
from Strong Biden
to Lean Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up 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.

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