Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/20/20)

Update for October 20.

Changes (October 20)
Toss Up Biden
Toss Up Trump
After a slow weekend of polling releases and a similar start to Monday, Tom Bevan at Real Clear Politics asked where the polls were on Twitter a day ago. As FHQ said over the weekend, it was the calm before the storm, and the showers began in earnest on Tuesday with 16 new polls in 13 states. States representing five of the six FHQ categories were represented, and as a result there was a pretty good cross-section of the race. [Only the Lean Trump category was not represented in this wave of new polling.] That particular cross-section continues to point toward a Democratic swing from election day 2016 to the polling picture in 2020. Right now, that shift stands at 6.84 points in the Democrats' direction.

And in the one state that made another change, the shift from 2016 to now is below average but not by much. Less than a week since it jumped the partisan line into Toss Up Biden territory, new polling has pushed Georgia back to the Trump side. But the marginal Biden lead before is an even more tenuous Trump advantage now. After the addition of the new surveys, the Peach state went from Biden +0.03 to Trump +0.007. 

It is tied in Georgia with two weeks to go, and that represents a nearly five point shift from election day four years ago. 

On to the polls... 

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 55, Biden 38)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +19.96]
In the Yellowhammer state, Moore Information weighed in for the first time and found much what other surveys have collectively discovered throughout 2020: Trump maintains a sizable advantage, but one that is off the mark compared to his performance there in 2016. But the president coming in under his prior showing is only part of the equation. Biden, for his part, is ahead of Clinton's pace by nearly four points. And while this new poll matches the Biden number in the FHQ averages, Trump's share of support in the poll lags his own average level of support by more than three points. 

(Trump 58, Biden 34)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +24.62]
What a difference a few months makes. The weekend before FHQ went live with its first daily electoral college projection of the cycle, Hendrix College released a survey that not only had Trump with less than 50 percent in the Natural state, but ahead by just two points. What was an outlier then continues to look like an outlier now. And that is more true at this point given an update from Hendrix that shows Trump expanding that June edge by 12 times. Contrary to the earlier Hendrix poll this one and the other surveys from other pollsters that have been in the field there have had the president in a mid-50s to mid-60s range while Biden has more often been in the 30s. Compared to Alabama, however, the swing in Arkansas has been minimal. Trump is just half point behind where he was in 2016 and the former vice president is a shade under two points above Clinton's performance there.

(Biden 47, Trump 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.07]
Data Orbital conducted a survey in the Grand Canyon state during the first week in October and had Biden out in front by five points. The margin is the same now as both candidates have tacked on an additional point of support in that time. That brings Biden's share in the series closer to his average share of support in the FHQ averages, but the firm continues to be less optimistic about Trump's support than some other pollsters. Arizona is close, but it is polls like these that keep the vice president steadily ahead there.

(Biden 51, Trump 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +12.69]
This RMG Research survey -- its first in the state in calendar 2020 -- is now the third poll released out of Colorado over the last two days, and although it finds Biden in good shape, it has the race the closest of the set. Most of that difference is on the Trump side. The president is at his peak level in Centennial state polling here while Biden splits the difference between where he was in yesterday's pair of polls. Being below 50 percent in the YouGov poll was unusual in view of the other polls of the state this year, but even a 51 percent share here is on the lower end of the former vice president's range in recent Colorado surveys. 

(Biden 48, Trump 47)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.28]
The Sunshine state has been in the Biden +3 area for a while now at FHQ, but polls like the new University of North Florida may provide some evidence that that is changing. In early October the university pollster had the Democratic nominee ahead by six with more than 50 percent of the respondents backing him. What is of note here, however, is that within the UNF series, this poll closely mirrors the poll conducted in Florida in February. FHQ spent some time during the late summer talking about regression to, if not the mean, then the pre-Biden surge period before June and July. This may just be some evidence of such a regression or it could more simply be a manifestation of partisan coming home as election day nears. Regardless, Florida, like Arizona, is close but consistently tipped in the former vice president's direction.  

(Trump 48, Biden 47 via Emerson | Trump 45, Biden 45 via Siena/NYT Upshot)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.007]
Again, Georgia may have flipped back to Toss Up Trump based on the addition of these two polls, but FHQ will say what we said when the Peach state hopped the partisan line onto Biden turf last week: as long as Georgia remains this close, it does not matter which side of the partisan line it is. The story is that Georgia is close at all. Well, as was mentioned above, it was close before and is even closer now even with the change. This is the first time Emerson has been in the field in the Peach state in calendar 2020, but the update from Siena showed no change over its September survey. And together neither did much to dislodge the state from its perch as the most competitive state on the board. 

(Trump 56, Biden 39)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +18.54]
Kentucky is the third of the Strong Trump states with new surveys out today, and the Mason-Dixon results closely resemble the 57-38 lead Trump currently holds in the FHQ averages. It is not close in the Bluegrass state either in the averages here or in this first time survey of Kentucky. However, it lends even more credence to the dynamic cited above. Even in reliably red states Trump is well off his 2016 mark. And this is more acute in Kentucky than it was in Alabama and (especially) Arkansas. The swing in the Bluegrass state is approaching twice the size of the overall average shift across the country. Trump is more than six points behind his showing there four years ago, and Biden is more than five points ahead of where Clinton was in November 2016.

(Biden 49, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +8.30]
The Change Research poll of Minnesota likely voters is another of the first timers in today's batch of polls. And while there is no natural comparison, one can say that this is the closest any poll of the Land of 10,000 Lakes has found the race there since early September in the immediate aftermath of convention season. But since that point -- in all of the September and October polling -- Biden has been at or over 50 percent in eight of 15 polls. This one finds the Democratic nominee below the majority level, but at a point that is well within his range in the state. Trump, on the other hand is back at his peak of support in post-convention polling in this survey. Minnesota may or may not be narrowing, but it will take more polls like this to do, but to do so in the remaining 14 days. That is a steep climb in a state that has been reliably in the Biden column.

North Carolina
(Biden 50, Trump 48 via ABC/WaPo | Biden 51, Trump 47 via East Carolina University)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.79]
In North Carolina, the thing that grabs the eye in two similar looking surveys is that Biden is at or above 50 percent in both of them. That is happening more frequently in recent Tar Heel state polling. October has seen the state surveyed 17 times and of that group, eight have had Biden above the majority mark. If one drops that just a point to 49 percent, Biden has been at or over that mark in 12 of 17 polls. And although the race is close in North Carolina, it must be troubling to the Trump campaign that the state has regularly been tilted in the former vice president's direction and furthermore that he is closing in on 50 percent there. Yes, Biden's average share at FHQ rounds up to just 48 now, but that is trending upward Yet, so has Trump's, just at a lesser clip as undecideds come off the board.

(Biden 48, Trump 47)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.53]
It may get old saying this about the states that have continued to hover around the partisan line this fall, but Ohio is also close. And the new Pulse Opinion Research results in a survey of the Buckeye state demonstrate that nicely. Furthermore, the race has tightened through the lens of the Pulse series of polls. Biden held four point leads in polls in both July and September and that advantage has now dissipated. But this survey brings Pulse in line with other recent surveys in the state. In fact, it exactly matches the Quinnipiac poll of the state from last week among the major party candidates. 

(Biden 49, Trump 45 via Ipsos | Biden 50, Trump 47 via Pulse Opinion Research)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.38]
The two new additions to Pennsylvania polling today are similar in a few ways. First, both find Biden's advantage over the president in the commonwealth below his graduated weighted average margin there. However, both also have the former vice president hovering right around his average share of support in the Keystone state, meaning that it is the Trump data that is different. Indeed, the president is above his 44 percent (rounded) share of support at FHQ in both surveys, but certainly within his range in recent polling.  Looking at each poll on its own, the Ipsos survey continues a series where Biden continues to oscillate in the 49-51 percent range while Trump has most often been stuck at 45 percent. In other words, there is not much change here. But that is not the case with the Pulse survey. In the last poll from the firm, the two major party candidates were tied in August. But rather than attribute that to some Biden surge in the time since, it is more likely that the August survey was an outlier. This latest poll more closely resembles the July Pulse poll when Biden led 51-46.

(Biden 47, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.62]
Texas continues to look like the North Carolina of the Trump coalition of states. And the latest Data for Progress survey of the Lone Star state dose nothing to really change that. As in the Tar Heel state, the underdog occasionally leads and that is true of this DfP poll. Yet, this survey represents a narrowing of the race for the 38 electoral votes in Texas. The early October poll from DfP had Biden up two. While Biden held his ground at 47 percent, Trump rose a point to 46 percent. Alternatively, this is just plain old survey variability. Regardless, Texas continues to favor Trump.

(Biden 51, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.20]
The other Ipsos survey on the day -- a leftover from late Monday -- comes from Wisconsin. But like the Pennsylvania survey from Ipsos, this update to a poll from last week does not show any real change over that time. Biden lost a point, but continues to consistently be around 50 percent in the series while Trump trails often in the mid-40s. That just does not stray that much from the 50-43 advantage Biden has in the FHQ averages. 

The Electoral College Spectrum1
(273 | 285)
(279 | 265)
SC -9
(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.

Tuesday was another day where there may have been the beginnings of some evidence that Trump is closing the gap in the waning days of the 2020 presidential campaign. And while there may be some truth to that it was often subtle and often masked by a continued steadiness in polls that represent an update to a series of previous polls. From pollster to pollster, there may be some changes, but within-pollster effects are minimal at best. This ends up being another day, then, in which the president did not make up any real ground on the Democratic nominee. And that is even with Georgia coming back over the partisan line into his column. 

It is that Georgia move that provides the only changes for the day. The Peach state turned pink on the map and Spectrum and flipped its possible switch on the Watch List below. But again, that is to be expected. As close as Georgia is, it has the greatest potential to change hands of any state on the board. 

But with two weeks to go, Trump still has that more than five point gap to make up in order to reclaim North Carolina, Arizona, Florida and Pennsylvania to get to 270 electoral votes. And if that follows the order on the Spectrum above, then Trump would likely flip Nevada in the process as well. But at this last date, that is a tall task. Not impossible, but tough.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 20 (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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