Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/25/20)

Update for October 25.

FHQ called last weekend the calm before the storm. And that certainly ended up being at least somewhat prophetic as an avalanche of new polling data was released throughout the last week. But this weekend has been less sedate on the polling release front. Yes, yesterday's update was buoyed by some late Friday polls, but Sunday saw eight new polls out of seven mainly battleground states. The only exception was a rare update in South Dakota. But other than that, the focus of today's releases was either in blue wall states the president flipped in 2016 or in the Sun Belt, where the polling indicates that Joe Biden is potentially making inroads. In four of the states, the margins moved in Biden's direction. But the president importantly had new surveys in Florida and North Carolina that nudged those states toward him. Both remained Biden toss ups however. The Georgia margin did not change and the Peach state is still tilted in the former vice president's direction by the slimmest of margins.

On to the polls... 

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 50, Trump 48)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.26]
The YouGov update in the Sunshine state may have bumped the margin there toward Trump, but that did not mean that the president was ahead in either the poll or in the FHQ graduated weighted averages of Florida polls. In this case, it just meant that the margin in the poll favored Biden but by less than his average margin at FHQ. This was the first YouGov survey in the series to include leaners, and while that bolstered both candidates' support, it did not alter the two point advantage Biden had in the last poll in September (or in the baseline with no leaners in this poll). Notably, Florida is another state where the Democratic nominee is closing in on a 50 percent average share of support. And that is borne out in the data. Half of the 28 October Florida surveys have found Biden at or above 50 percent (including this YouGov poll). 

(Biden 49, Trump 49)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +0.14]
Across the northern Florida border in Georgia YouGov continued to show a competitive race. Trump's narrow 47-46 edge in the firm's September poll has given way to a tie in October. What is more, leaners were included in this survey as well, but their inclusion did not break the tie in the baseline numbers. But this survey overall is consistent with the 47-47 (rounded) race in the FHQ averages. Yet, Georgia is inching toward Biden. Nine of the 14 October polls have had the former vice president tied or ahead of Trump.

(Biden 55, Trump 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.09]
In the Great Lakes state Gravis Marketing was back in the field for the first time since July. In those three months Trump remained stationary at 42 percent even as Biden was growing his share of support into the mid-50s. The Democratic nominee has yet to hit 50 percent in his average share of support in Michigan, but this poll is among 20 this month (of 28 total) that has had Biden at or above 50 percent. Biden may be gaining on the majority mark in the FHQ averages, but this 55 percent share is well out in front of the averages at the peak of his recent polling there. 

North Carolina
(Biden 51, Trump 47 via YouGov | Trump 49, Biden 46 via Trafalgar Group)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.81]
There were two new surveys in the Tar Heel state that told opposing stories. Often when FHQ discusses such a situation, it is a Trafalgar poll on one side providing that counterpoint. Like the other two YouGov surveys on the day, this update in North Carolina also included leaners. And that transition helped the president more compared to the baseline data without leaners. Those leaners, then, were not what fueled the difference between the 48-46 advantage Biden held in September and now. Instead, it was just movement in the former vice president's direction. The opposite was true in the Trafalgar series in North Carolina. The president gained a point since September, but through the Trafalgar lens, the race for the 15 electoral votes at stake in the Old North state continued to be pretty static. But to provide some context on the Trafalgar polls in North Carolina in general, there have been 25 polls conducted in whole or in part in October and 20 of those have found Biden ahead with three more that had the race tied. That leaves just two polls with Trump in the lead there. Unlike the blue wall states, Biden is not closing in on 50 percent in North Carolina, not at the same pace anyway. Still, 11 of 25 October polls have found Biden at or above 50 percent in North Carolina. 

South Dakota
(Trump 51, Biden 40)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +19.31]
This is the first time Mason-Dixon has been in the field in South Dakota in calendar 2020. In fact, this is the first pollster other than Survey Monkey to gauge presidential preference in the Mount Rushmore state all year. This also happens to be the tightest the race has appeared in any 2020 survey of South Dakota. "Tight" is a relative term in this context. An 11 point Trump lead is hardly evidence that South Dakota is going to slip across the partisan line and turn blue, but it is another data point that suggests a sizable swing from the 2016 election to polling in this cycle. Trump won the state by 30 points four years ago, so even if the average swing across the country is closing in on seven points (toward the Democrats) in that time, a 19 point shift is around triple the average swing. Again, Trump will not lose South Dakota but the potential shift there matters. [Please note that there is also a rather large combined chunk of support for other candidates and undecideds in this poll that affects that potential swing as well.]

(Biden 48, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.39]
On the whole, the UT-Tyler series of surveys in the Lone Star state has indicated a closer race than in 2016, but has mostly favored Trump throughout 2020. But this reversal of the 48-46 Trump advantage in the university pollster's September survey is just the second time a poll in the series has found Biden ahead in Texas. The other was during Biden's peak polling period in June and July. Again, Texas looks a lot like North Carolina but on the Trump side of the partisan line. That is true of the two states' FHQ averages. Both stand at 48-46 (rounded) with Biden ahead in North Carolina and Trump in Texas. The question is whether that will hold. October polling in Texas thus far has been tipped more in Biden's direction. Of the 11 surveys conducted in Texas this month, the Democratic nominee has been tied or had in eight of them. And average margin reflects that. It has tracked downward toward the partisan line, but also toward inclusion on the Watch List below. 

(Biden 54, Trump 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.26]
The final Sunday poll release comes from Gravis Marketing out of Wisconsin. Like the firm's Michigan poll above, the one in the Badger state has Biden running more out ahead of his established FHQ average share of support than the president is his. But this is another one where the president barely budged from the low 40s since the last Gravis poll in Wisconsin in July as Biden saw his support push into the mid-50s.  And also like Michigan, October polling in Wisconsin has been Biden-favorable. 15 of the 21 surveys conducted in the state this month have found the former vice president at or above 50 percent. And with fewer than 10 days until the voting phase of this election concludes, that is not a bad spot to be in for Democrats after they lost the state in 2016 for the first time since 1984.


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.

As the race for the White House begins its last full week little changed at FHQ. The map looks just as it did a day ago and so, too, does the Watch List below. Texas may be approaching inclusion on the List, but it is not there yet. On the Electoral College Spectrum, none of the battlegrounds yielded their positions in the order. However, South Dakota did trade slots with Alabama, moving one spot closer in the order to the partisan line. 

9 days to go.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 25 (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.

Related posts:

Follow FHQ on TwitterInstagram and Facebook or subscribe by Email.

No comments: