Friday, October 23, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/23/20)

Update for October 23.

The work week ends with debate season now in the rearview mirror and just 11 days until the voting phase of the 2020 presidential election concludes. And while Friday saw a slowing down of the pace of polling releases witnessed over the last three days, it was still a fairly busy day with 13 new surveys from 10 states representing all but the Strong Biden category. Despite the new data, the race ends the work week where it began with Georgia on the Biden side of the partisan line and a sizable projected advantage in the electoral vote tally.

On to the polls... 

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 46, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +2.97]
Susquehanna has fielded some of the most Trump-friendly polls in recent weeks and that was true of the firm's Arizona survey released today. Favorable (relative to other polling) to one candidate or not, this poll had both the president and Joe Biden losing support compared to the last Susquehanna poll there in September. But both polls have the race tied, so there was no net change in the race across those two surveys. And this latest one finds Trump in the core of his recent range of results in the Grand Canyon state while Biden lags toward the bottom end of his. 

(Biden 49, Trump 47 via St. Pete Polls | Trump 50, Biden 46 via Pulse Opinion Research)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.27]
It was a choose one's own narrative in a pair of Florida polls released today. Like the Susquehanna poll of Arizona, the St. Pete Polls survey showed the same two point margin as the pollster's survey a week and a half ago and was, in fact, unchanged in that time. Yet, the steady picture painted by that poll was not the same one as in the Pulse Opinion Research survey. It was the firm's first poll of the Sunshine state in 2020 and stands out from other recent polls there. Trump has never led a Florida survey this year by more than four points and has only hit or surpassed 50 percent in six of the 98 polls that have been conducted in Florida in calendar 2020. That obviously puts Trump at the ver top of his range in all of Florida polling as Biden ended up far closer to the low end of his. Of the two polls, the St. Pete poll is more consistent with the current FHQ averages which project a 49-45 (rounded) Biden edge. 

(Trump 47, Biden 47)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.70]
An unusually busy polling week in Iowa ends with an update to the July RMG Research poll. While that summer survey had the president up one, it also found both candidates around 40 percent. However, both are consistent (in terms of their margins) with where the race for the Hawkeye state's six electoral votes currently is. Of the ten October polls, four have had the race tied and six of those ten have found Iowa within a point (or less). But Biden had the advantage in three of the remaining four polls that had a margin greater than one. That is why Iowa has moved in Biden's direction. 

(Biden 48, Trump 39 via EPIC-MRA | Trump 49, Biden 45 via Zia Poll)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.00]
Back over in Michigan, the new Zia Poll matches Trump's largest lead in the Great Lakes state, matching a July Spry Strategies poll. But recall the Michigan discussion from yesterday with respect to the Trafalgar surveys there. This is just Trump's eighth lead in 114 polls conducted in Michigan in 2020. Compared to all the other polls, this one is an outlier. And like that St. Pete poll of Florida above the EPIC-MRA poll mirrors the one the firm put out last week. EPIC remains closer on the Biden number, but below where both candidates are in the FHQ averages (Biden 50-43 currently). 

(Trump 49, Biden 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +8.40]
For the second consecutive day, there is a new poll out Montana. Yes, the Treasure state arguably remains comfortably red, but the update to the Siena/NYT Upshot series, like the Strategies 360 poll a day ago, has the gap between the two major party candidates below ten percent. What's more, Siena for the second straight poll has found Trump under 50 percent, but doesn't really mark much of a change since September. Biden did bump up a point to come more in line with his FHQ average share of support there. Comfortably red or not, Montana has had an above average shift from the 20 point margin the president enjoyed there in 2016.

North Carolina
(Biden 48, Trump 44 via Meredith College | Biden 48, Trump 44 via Data for Progress)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.84]
The two polls of the Tar Heel state show exactly the same thing, but took different routes in getting to a 48-44 Biden advantage. The Meredith poll made the transition from a register to likely voter sample and ostensibly helped the former vice president in the process. Biden rose a couple of points and the president dropped one. But while the margin expanded in the Meredith series it contracted in the Data for Progress series of polls in North Carolina. Trump remained at 44 precent for the second time in October, but Biden slid back to around where he was in the firm's August poll of the state. Both candidates, it should be said, are operating in quite tight ranges in the DfP series. 

(Trump 60, Biden 35) [August poll]
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +24.55]
Another day, another Sooner Poll from Oklahoma. This one is a bit outdated having been in the field there in August. But it like the other Sooner polls conducted this year has Trump hovering around 60 percent and Biden once again in the mid-30s. Its addition also does little to alter the margin in a state that is way off on the Republican end of the Spectrum below. Still, the margin in Oklahoma is much closer than it was just four years ago. That does not mean close, but there has been a shift toward the Democrats in that time. 

(Biden 51, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.40]
The trajectory of change in the Muhlenberg series of surveys of the Keystone state has gradually moved in Biden's direction over the course of the last eight plus months. A February tie was a 49-45 Biden advantage in August. And Biden rose again from the August to October polls as the president faded a little more. Overall, the shifts have brought the current Muhlenberg poll in line with FHQ average shares of support for the two major party candidates. As of now, the former vice president holds a 50-44 (rounded) lead here on a day that saw the margin in Pennsylvania tick up.

(Trump 50, Biden 38)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +14.26]
There are some interesting dynamics at play in the polling of Utah this cycle. RMG Research and Y2 Analytics have been the most active pollsters in the Beehive state this cycle, but both started out with widely divergent numbers in polling the state. In the RMG Research series, Trump has hovered around the 50 percent mark all year as Biden has risen from the low 30s to the upper 30s now. Y2, on the other hand has until its last poll had the president below 50 percent and Biden cresting to a point above 40 percent, a level Democrats have not met in the state in years. Over time, however, the two pollsters have converged with Trump at or slightly above 50 percent and Biden approaching, but falling short of 40 percent (a bit above where Obama was in the state in 2008).

West Virginia
(Trump 58, Biden 38)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +25.98]
Finally, something may be brewing in West Virginia (or it could be that one pollster's work among a general lack of polling in that state in 2020 is somewhat deceptive). But Triton Polling and Research in its second consecutive poll has found Trump under 60 percent in the Mountain state. That is actually the third poll in a row -- including both Triton surveys -- to show that. If those latest three surveys are in any way indicative of the state of the race in West Virginia, then that would translate to Trump losing around ten points from 2016 to polling now. And that would also mean Biden moving nearly 12 points beyond where Clinton end up four years ago. That would make for a massive shift. Even if the polls are understating the president's support and it is accurate on the increased Biden support, then that Democratic side of swing equation alone would be an above average overall swing compared to the (averaged) nationwide shift in 2020 polling from election day 2016. But as it stands, including earlier, albeit discounted, polls the margin is still around Trump +26.


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

Today was another day in which the map and Watch List remained unchanged from a day ago. But the Electoral College Spectrum saw one small change way off on the Republican end. The new, "tight" survey in West Virginia lowered the average margin in the Mountain state enough to push it one spot toward the partisan line and past North Dakota. No, that change makes no real difference in the grand scheme of things, but it is a slight change nonetheless. 

Overall, this was a mostly good polling day for Biden. The average margins in six of the ten states with newly added polls moved in his direction. But two states in the Biden column and close to the partisan line -- Arizona and Florida -- shifted slightly away from the former vice president. But in reality, it was a mostly status quo maintaining day. 

11 days to go.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 23 (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
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
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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