Friday, October 16, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/16/20)

Update for October 16.

The work week comes to a close in much the same way that it began. Which is to say that the polling releases slowed down relative to the last few days while posting a handful more surveys than came out on Monday. Regardless, today's batch offered some unusual results from both some of the usual suspects and some of the less frequently surveyed states further out in the order on both sides of the partisan line. And perhaps suggesting that the results were uncommon is coded language for the fact that a few of these polls do not exactly match the story of consistency that FHQ has so often told in recent weeks. That said, even with a few polls that stray from consistency, little changed and that is especially true in the states that matter in the heart of the order on the Electoral College Spectrum below.

In any event, on to the polls... 

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 45, Biden 39)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +6.59]
The Last Frontier has seen but nine publicly released surveys in calendar 2020 and Siena/NYT Upshot_ was the latest to wade into the presidential, Senate and House races to gauge public sentiment as time until election day inched down below three weeks this week. What Siena found in the presidential race in its first survey there this season was not off target with respect to the overall margin. It is in line with the average margin FHQ has had for Alaska for a few weeks now. What is different in this poll is how much support both caudates are pulling. Both are at their low points by fairly significant margins. Biden lags around five points behind his graduated weighted average share of support in Alaska polling and Trump is six points off his. And this is due to Siena not prompting potential leaners among at large group of undecided respondents and those supporting other minor party candidates. But again, since the margin is consistent with where the race is Alaska has been, this poll does not shift the state much in the order among Lean Trump states. 

(Trump 46, Biden 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.03]
Siena's survey in Alaska was not the only first time in _____ poll of the day. Targoz Market Research_ was also recently in the field but in Arizona and had Trump ahead there by one percent. Trump leads in the Grand Canyon state are not non-existent, but they have happened with some relative infrequency. Out of the 82 publicly available polls in Arizona, Trump has led in just 15 of them. In October alone there have been 13 polls conducted in the state and Trump has led in only two of them. That is just around one in every six surveys with Trump ahead. They occur. And this poll in particular finds Trump right in the middle of his range of support while Biden is toward the bottom of his recent range. Arizona remains close, but as indicated by the nature of the polling above, Biden has been consistently out in front in the state.

(Biden 48, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.36]
It was not that long ago -- in the lead up to the first debate -- that FHQ cited how often Biden +3 leads were popping up in the data in the Sunshine state. The latest Mason-Dixon poll of Florida likely voters hits that sweet spot and is at least some evidence of some contraction in the race there since July when the firm was last in the field there. Then, it was Biden 50-46 but during a period that was part of that polling surge across the country for the former vice president. The interesting thing is that both candidates have lost some support since that time. It is not much, to be sure, but both ticked down some to a point that is consistent with where the FHQ averages are for both candidates in Florida. 

(Biden 61, Trump 28)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +29.86]
Like Alaska, there has been little polling of Hawaii in calendar 2020 and even fewer pollsters involved. Other than a few waves of small sample surveys from Survey Monkey, MRG Research has been the only other pollster to conduct any surveys in the Aloha state and had an update released today. Like the July poll, this latest survey was among registered and not likely voters, but still saw some movement. But it was movement for just one candidate. Trump held steady in the upper 20s which is behind both his 2016 showing and his current polling average in the state. On the other hand, Biden added support in the three months since the last MRG survey of Hawaii and pulled in line with Clinton's pace there four years ago and his own current FHQ average share of support in the state. And that is not an uncommon feature of the 2020 polling in the bluest of states. Any difference between the polling of 2020 and the 2016 results in those states is typically on Trump's side of the equation. The president tends to trail his 2016 showing while Biden is often consistent with where Clinton ended up in November 2016. But hold on to that thought for a moment. It returns later on in the post. 

(Trump 47, Biden 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.08]
With just one exception, Trafalgar Group has shown a close race for Michigan's 16 electoral votes; something that often looks similar to the 2016 results in the state. That exception was the last survey the firm conducted immediately prior to the first presidential debate at the end of September that found Biden up a couple of points. If that is one's touchstone, then it looks as if there has been a modest shift in October toward Trump. Instead, it is that late September poll that stands out in the Trafalgar series in the Great Lakes state. What is more the whole series does not exactly jibe well with the full universe of polls in Michigan in calendar 2020. Michigan has been the most frequently surveyed state this cycle and just 13 of the 103 surveys have had Biden below 47 percent as he is in the this survey. And of those 13, eight found the former vice president either tied or in the lead. All of those tended to have a high share of undecided/other respondents. And the rest were from Trafalgar which has had both candidates consistently in the mid-40s other than the pre-debate poll cited above. Typically, that ends up with Trump at the high end of his range and Biden near the low point of his. 

New Jersey
(Biden 56, Trump 36)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +19.05]
Over in the Garden state, the new Stockton University survey -- its first there of the cycle -- fell in line with the current FHQ average shares of both candidates there. But as was the case in Hawaii, the poll was consistent with the averages but was more evidence of Biden being on par with Clinton's showing in New Jersey and Trump lagging behind his by more than four points. Again, that is the trend in some deeper blue states: Biden seemingly consolidating Clinton support and Trump being unable to put together the same 2016 coalition. 

North Carolina
(Biden 49, Trump 49)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.76]
Emerson was back in the field in North Carolina for the first time since September and although there were some changes they were in part methodological. The 51-49 Biden edge then is a tie at Emerson now, but the college pollster added an other response in this latest survey that was not there last month. The presence of other in the October poll siphoned off a couple of point and it came mainly from Biden. However, the bottom line in this Emerson series in the Tar Heel state is that it has been close and obviously continues to be in this latest update. But in this case, the survey has Biden support in line with his average at FHQ while Trump is running out in front of his average support.

The Electoral College Spectrum1
(273 | 285)
(279 | 265)
SC -9
(308 | 259)
(319 | 230)
NE CD1-1
ME CD2-1
(335 | 219)
(351 | 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.

If one expected big changes from floods of state-level polling over the last few days, then this smaller batch should certainly temper expectations today. They should be low in a fairly consistent race anyway. And while there were no changes to the map or the Watch List below, some of the polls above whether unusual or not from and/or from sporadically surveyed states triggered a couple of changes. The margin grew in Hawaii after the MRG poll was added there, pushing the Aloha state past New York and California deeper into the Biden coalition of states. The Siena poll of Alaska had the opposite effect. Yes, the Last Frontier remains in a tightly clustered group with Missouri and South Carolina, but the poll release there today drew the average in just enough to pull Alaska past Missouri toward the partisan line. Still, both of those states are safely blue and red respectively. And that is unlikely to change between now and election day. 

18 days to go.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 16 (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 Toss Up Trump
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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