Wednesday, October 21, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/21/20)

Update for October 21.

As the race for the White House approaches the final debate on Thursday, the polling began to heat up. With one day until that last presidential debate there were a total of 29 new polls released from 15 states representing all of the FHQ categories but the Strong Trump states. There is a lot to look at, so... 

...on to the polls... 

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 50, Biden 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +6.03]
Public Policy Polling was last in the field with a survey in Alaska in July. Then it was 50-44, Trump. In those three intervening months little has seemingly changed. And this one falls pretty close to the FHQ averages for both candidates. The big thing in the Last Frontier is that Trump barely surpassed 50 percent in 2016 and is hovering around it now. Biden, on the other hand, has pulled much closer than where Clinton was in November 2016.

(Biden 48, Trump 46 via Pulse Opinion Research | Biden 47, Trump 46 via RMG Research)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.06]
The two pollsters with new surveys out today in the Grand Canyon state are new to Arizona this cycle. As such, there is no natural comparison for either. However, the current FHQ averages currently have it at Biden 48-45 (rounded) and the truth is that both surveys fall within both candidates ranges in most recent polls. Arizona continues to be a state that is narrowly but consistently tipped in Biden's direction as election day nears.

(Biden 50, Trump 46 via CNN | Biden 51, Trump 47 via Civiqs)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.33]
Another of those close states with Biden typically but not always ahead is Florida. But the difference in the Sunshine state compared to Arizona is that the former vice president has begun to inch more toward 50 percent. Of the 23 surveys conducted in whole or in part in October, Biden has been at or above the majority mark in 11 of those polls. Trump is close, but that Biden is approaching 50 percent is a red flag. And Biden is at or above 50 percent in both of today's polls. However, the CNN poll is only marginally different its last survey there in July when it was 51-46, Biden. That is not a piece of evidence that helps to build a story of big change in this race. [The Civiqs survey was its first in Florida this cycle.] 

(Biden 48, Trump 48 via Emerson | Biden 46, Trump 43 via Siena/NYT Upshot | Biden 45, Trump 45 via Insider Advantage | Biden 51, Trump 46 via Monmouth)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.73]
If Biden hitting 50 percent in a couple of Florida polls was a red flag, then the former vice president leading or tied in four new polls in the Hawkeye state is another for the Trump reelection effort. The president needs both states to get to 270, but with Iowa now back on the Watch List (below), a state that he won by nine in 2016 is now close to tied. And more importantly, that swing is indicative of the shift toward the Democrats in 2020 polling from election day four years ago. Emerson and Insider Advantage are new to Iowa and in the Siena poll Biden maintained the three point edge he had in the September. The focus, then, will be on the noisier Monmouth series. A race knotted at 47-47 in August shifted in Trump's direction in September (49-46, Trump) and has swung back hard in Biden's direction in October. And all of these use the low turnout model that the university pollster utilizes. Typically that has favored the president, but in this case the low turnout version was actually better for Biden than the high turnout model. The bottom line in Iowa is that if it is among the most competitive states on election day, then the Democratic nominee is likely within range of 270 electoral votes (if not more).

(Trump 54, Biden 42 via Public Policy Polling | Trump 56, Biden 39 via co/efficient)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +9.13]
The Sunflower state has shown signs in some 2020 polling of being closer than usual. And while that is consistent with a swing toward the Democrats, the shift in Kansas at FHQ has been nearly 11 points since to this point, an above average swing from four years ago. Nevertheless, the two polls out there today find the president with double digit leads. PPP has conducted three polls in Kansas and had Trump in the 50s each time and Biden lagging in the lower 40s. But the co/efficient survey is simultaneously Trump's peak and Biden's nadir in Kansas polling this year. Trump will win Kansas in November, but the question is whether it continues to show an above average Democratic shift or snaps back into a place in the range like these two surveys today.

(Biden 52, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.19]
The Ipsos Michigan poll is hardly different from the firm's survey there a week ago. Biden is up a point and that is it. Again, polling in the Great Lakes state is settling into a space where the margins more often than not end up in the 6-9 point range in Biden's favor. And this survey nudges the former vice president a little closer to the 50 percent in the averages. 

(Biden 53, Trump 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +8.37]
The first Civiqs poll of Minnesota in 2020 finds the Democratic nominee out to a double digit lead. That is not uncommon in polling of the Land of 10,000 Lakes, but this poll does have Biden toward the top of his range (and above his FHQ average share of support) while the president is relatively static in the lower 40s where he has been in most Minnesota surveys. And that is not a winning position in a state the president had held out some hope of flipping this year after a narrow Clinton win there in 2016.

(Biden 52, Trump 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +4.09]
Civiqs was also in the field in Nevada. Here, too, it was the pollster's first go of it in the Silver state. And like the Minnesota survey above, the Nevada poll has Biden running out in front of his FHQ average at the top of his range in polling there this cycle. Meanwhile, the president came in around where he has been in Nevada polling all year. This is another oft-discussed flip opportunity for the president's campaign, but an average share around 44 percent at FHQ is not going to do it without some current Biden supporters coming over (or staying at home and/or not returning their mail ballots). There just are not enough undecideds to make up the difference in the Silver state. 

New Jersey
(Biden 56, Trump 34)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +19.33]
Look, New Jersey is not going to be anything other than solidly blue next month, and the consistency of the DKC Analytics series of polls has spoken to that all year. Biden has been in the 50s and Trump in the 30s across the four polls of the series. But this is the widest margin in any of those surveys and is in line with the FHQ averages in the Garden state. The more interesting thing in New Jersey continues to be that Biden has not improved on Clinton's showing the state. All of the shift, then, is on the Trump side, and the president has dropped what is now approaching five points.

New Mexico
(Biden 54, Trump 41)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +10.45]
New Mexico is the rare state in 2020 where both major party candidates are running ahead of their parties' performance in 2016. That would be a silver lining for the Trump campaign if not for the fact that Biden has to this point run more than four points ahead of Clinton's pace in the Land of Enchantment while the president has only improved on his showing there by a couple of points. And the new GBAO survey of New Mexicans did little to alter that general picture of Biden over 50 percent and Trump trailing in the low 40s. Like a couple of other states above, New Mexico has also been talked about at a potential opportunity for the president. Most polls there, however, do not reflect that.

North Carolina
(Biden 49, Trump 47)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.81]
Ipsos has now conducted four polls in the Tar Heel state in 2020 and this latest is the first to show the race as anything other than tied between Biden and Trump. And the change brings Ipsos in line with the overall FHQ averages in North Carolina. As it stands now at FHQ with more than 100 polls in the state, Biden holds a 48-46 (rounded) lead. It is a narrow but consistently advantage of the ilk of those in both Arizona and Florida.

(Biden 53, Trump 43 via CNN | Biden 51, Trump 43 via Quinnipiac | Biden 49, Trump 42 via Suffolk)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.43]
If it was not for Iowa, the Pennsylvania would have had the most poll releases on the day. And technically the Keystone state has four polls too counting the Change Research survey below. Minus that poll, which is the closest the president has been in the commonwealth in any non-Trafalgar poll in a while, the picture looks quite grim for the president. Biden is hovering around 50 percent in each and Trump is mired in the low 40s. And all of those polls are more in line with the FHQ averages in the Pennsylvania (Biden 50-44, rounded), than the Change survey. This was the initial poll for both CNN and Suffolk in Pennsylvania, but the Quinnipiac survey actually showed some narrowing from the earlier October survey the university pollster released. However, this latest poll is more in line with the August Q-poll that also had Biden up eight. 

(Biden 47, Trump 47)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.58]
Other than a rare September blip when President Trump was up five points, the series of Texas polls from Quinnipiac has found a race within one point. And that includes today's survey with Biden and Trump tied. In fact, of the nine polls in the field in whole or in part in October, seven of them have had the race within two points one way or the other. But as FHQ mentioned in yesterday's update, Texas is a lot like North Carolina but on the Trump side of the partisan line. Although, in the case of Texas that means a tight race in most (recent) polls with a smattering of surveys with Trump out in front by more than five. The Lone Star state is close, but like several of those blue states above -- Arizona, Florida and North Carolina -- is consistently tipped in one direction. Contrary to those states, Texas is tipped in the president's favor. 

(Biden 46, Trump 45 via Susquehanna | Biden 50, Trump 45 via Latino Decisions)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.13]
One of these new Wisconsins polls more closely resembles the FHQ averages and it is not the Susquehanna survey. But it was the Susquehanna poll that has a point of comparison in its September poll of the Badger state. A two point Biden advantage then (48-46) has been replaced with a marginally tighter race but with both candidates worse off than they were at the end of September. In the new poll, Trump is still toward the top of his range while Biden is on the lower end of his in recent Wisconsin polling. But this is another battleground state where the president is just barely scratching into the mid-40s in most polls.

Biden 49, Trump 47 (Biden -1, Trump +1 since early October wave)

North Carolina: 
Biden 50, Trump 47 (Biden +1, Trump +/-0)

Biden 50, Trump 45 (Biden +/-0, Trump -1)

Biden 51, Trump 45 (Biden +/-0, Trump +/-0)

Biden 51, Trump 44 (Biden +/-0, Trump +1)

Biden 52, Trump 44 (Biden +1, Trump +/-0)

FHQ will be brief here since there is no real marked change in this Change Research wave relative to the last earlier this month. But what is striking about this set is that Biden is at or over 50 percent in five of the  six core battlegrounds. That was true in the last wave, but then it was North Carolina that was the the lone state where the former vice president fell short of 50 percent. The other item of note here is the order of the states. Arizona and Florida are close enough at FHQ that one could see the two swapping spots, but Pennsylvania as the closest state of the bunch is a new wrinkle that does not match the established FHQ order. Furthermore, Wisconsin is fairly consistently closer than Michigan but it the Badger state is not here. 

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

Despite the flood of new polling data, the overarching story here at FHQ remains the same. No states changed sides nor did any change shades. That said, Kansas, on the weight of two polls with wider than typical margins, moved to the very edge of the Lean Trump group of states in the order on the Spectrum. The Sunflower state is now on the Watch List within a point of shifting up into the Strong Trump category. Kansas was joined on the Watch List by Iowa and Nevada. The former is now within a point of pushing across the partisan line into Biden territory and the latter is closer to returning to the Lean Biden category. 

Yet, Kansas is the only bright spot on the day for the president. Everywhere else, including almost every state that matters to his quest for 270 electoral votes, either held steady or inched further away from him. And at a time with just 13 days until the voting phase of this election concludes, it is another lost day for Trump through the lens of the polls. 

13 days to go.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 21 (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
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
from Toss Up Biden
to Lean 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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