Thursday, October 1, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/1/20)

Update for October 1.

Yesterday's update focused on states currently outside of toss up territory and while that is still the case today, there are a few battleground toss ups thrown into the mix. But even in those four states -- Arizona, Iowa, North Carolina and Ohio -- the additions served to confirm what was already known in each: Iowa and Ohio are barely on the Trump side of the partisan line and Arizona and North Carolina, while toss ups, are further away from the partisan line and in Biden's column. And as today marks 33 days until election day on November 3, that alignment is not lost -- or should not be -- on those observers of the process. A couple of Trump states are closer to changing hands (and adding to Biden's already winning projected electoral vote total) than two states that the president is absolutely going to have to have to get to 270. Each day that the narrative does not change from that -- each day that the alignment stays the same -- is a day lost for President Trump.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 49, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.47]
Data for Progress was back in the field looking at competitive Senate races and in the case of Arizona has been less than a week since the firm last tested the presidential race. A one point Trump lead then is a four point Biden advantage now. And really, this survey is much more in line with where the FHQ averages currently peg the race in the Grand Canyon state: Biden up 48-44 (rounded).

(Trump 47, Biden 44 via Data for Progress | Biden 48, Trump 46 via RABA Research)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.39]
One can take one's pick in the pair of new Iowa polls added today. Each of the two major party candidates had a lead in one and they average out to a half a point lead for the president. In the context of all of the other calendar 2020 polling in the Hawkeye state, however, and through the lens of the graduated weighted average used here at FHQ, the president's edge is 0.39 points. There is some difference there, but not much. Likewise, Trump leads in Iowa, but not by much.

(Trump 52, Biden 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +8.66]
There have been some closer than typical polls of the presidential race in Kansas this season, but the last couple of days have brought two that have shown a less competitive contest. The new Civiqs is the second of those two and serves to stretch out Trump's lead in the Sunflower state. Neither poll is unusual in the scope of the full universe of Kansas polling, but Trump is running near the top of his range in both while Biden is toward the lower end of his. Still, there was not much change in the Civiqs series from the last poll in June to now. Biden gained a couple of points and Trump was stable at 52 percent.

(Biden 53, Trump 39)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +12.90]
That same sort of dynamic (but in reverse) was true of the update in Maine from Data for Progress. Two months ago, Biden held a ten point lead with 53 percent of the respondents supporting him. In that same timeframe, however, Trump lost four points to fall below 40 percent. And again, that is consistent with where the president sits statewide in the Pine Tree state in the FHQ averages. Those two statewide electors as stake in Maine have never really been in doubt and sadly, this poll did not also include data on the more competitive second district. But judging from the statewide data here and other polls in a similar range, Biden likely would have narrowly led there as well.

(Biden 52, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.02]
Another day brings another poll in Michigan, the most frequently surveyed state of calendar 2020. And the latest from ALG Research is like a number of the other polls today: consistent with existing averages -- both candidate shares and margin -- in the state. This is the first time ALG has conducted a poll -- one that has been publicly released -- in the Great Lakes state. The big thing in Michigan now is Biden's proximity to 50 percent. Of the 20 polls conducted in the state in whole or in part in September, the former vice president was at or above 50 percent in 13 of them. Furthermore, he was at 49 percent in four of the remaining three. That is a troubling sign for a president trying to defend the state in 2020.

New Hampshire
(Biden 53, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.96]
There have been several new polls of New Hampshire this week, a veritable flood of new data in a state that has likely been underpolled in 2020 given its position in the order of states (not to mention its close finish in 2016). But the latest three polls including the new one from American Research Group have expanded Biden's advantage in the Granite state, pushing the former vice president's average share of support at FHQ above 50 percent. Near each other on election day in 2016, New Hampshire and Michigan have both exhibited similar shifts since then up to now. Both are right in line with a seven or eight point shift toward the Democrats over the last four years.

North Carolina
(Biden 50, Trump 47)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.46]
In North Carolina, the polls continue to fall in the same tight range from Biden +3 to Trump +3. The latest addition from ALG Research is on the high end of the Biden side of that range, but nevertheless in that range. It is typical then that while both candidates are running ahead of their established FHQ  averages in the Tar Heel state, Biden is running a bit more ahead than is Trump. But as has become the mantra around here, North Carolina is close and this new poll does little to shake the state from its position in the rank order. With Ohio now on the other side of the partisan line, North Carolina is the most competitive of the Biden coalition of states.

(Biden 48, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.13]
Speaking of Ohio, ALG Research was also in the field there (and for the first time in calendar 2020) as well. But this poll, dated yesterday on the release, was conducted as August turned to September. The addition is new, but the data is on the old side. But it fits in with other polling around the same time or those conducted since. Sure, Biden is on the high side of his range over that period in this one, but not by a whole lot. The firm nailed the Trump share. And while that cut into the president's advantage, it did not eliminate it. That said, Ohio has once again changed positions with Georgia and is now up against the partisan line, the most competitive state on the Trump side.

(Biden 56, Trump 39)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +14.61]
Oregon has only seen a couple of polls in 2020 and the Civiqs survey added for today is the second. The earlier survey very closely resembled the results from 2016, and although this poll has Trump stationary at 39 percent (as compared to the last survey), Biden has pushed into the upper 50s. That pulls the Beaver state closer in line with a more uniform swing toward the Democrats since 2016. It remains below average, but there is now a swing where there really was not before with just the previous poll. [Note, however, that that initial poll was factored in alongside consideration of the shifts in other states that finished near Oregon in the order four years ago.]

(Biden 50, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.34]
Like its poll of Ohio, the final ALG Research survey release on the day from Pennsylvania was actually in the field a month ago and released just yesterday. But it is a poll that rests comfortably within the context of other recent polls of the Keystone state. FHQ currently has the race for those 20 electoral votes at Biden 49-44 (rounded), so this ALG survey is very much in line with that. Biden is approaching 50 percent there as well. Of the 26 polls conducted since (and including) the ALG poll, half of them have had the former vice president at or above 50 percent. All eyes may be on tipping point state Pennsylvania in the Trump campaign, but it is a lot like Michigan above in terms of how Biden is closing in on 50 percent. Pennsylvania is closer than Michigan, but continues to present the president's reelection effort with some significant obstacles.

South Carolina
(Trump 47, Biden 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +5.67]
Lastly, in South Carolina, Data for Progress also sees a close contest for the Palmetto state's nine electoral votes. Only, things are not quite as close as the Quinnipiac poll from a day ago. Still, like that poll, this one has Trump lagging behind the 50 percent (rounded) he carries currently in the FHQ averages. Where the DfP survey is a bit more consistent is on the Biden number. His 43 percent share of support in the poll nearly matches his 44 percent share in the averages. Even with the lead, South Carolina has shifted nearly eight points in the Democrats' direction over the last four years.

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)
(290 | 259)
ME CD2-1
(320 | 248)
NE CD1-1
(335 | 218)
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.

There were scads of new polls again today, but little to show for it in terms of changes at FHQ. Both the map and the Watch List remained unchanged from a day ago on the last day of September. But the beginning of October saw a couple of shifts in the order of states depicted on the Electoral College Spectrum. The new poll of Kansas was enough to push it past Nebraska's first congressional district and deeper into the Lean Trump category. Also on the Trump side of the partisan line and right up against, Ohio jumped Georgia and reclaimed its position as the most competitive state among the Trump coalition. But it is worth noting just how close the trio of Georgia, Iowa and Ohio are to each other and the partisan line. The three states are all within about a quarter of a point of each other in their margins and all within a half a point of the partisan line. All three and Texas are closer to the partisan line than the Biden state next to it on his side, North Carolina. That is 78 electoral votes that are closer to jumping the partisan line into Biden territory than North Carolina's 15 are to moving to Trump's side.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 1 (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 Trump
to Toss Up Biden
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 (9/30/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/29/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/28/20)

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