Monday, October 26, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/26/20)

Update for October 26.

With just eight days left until voting in the presidential election concludes in the 2020 campaign, the new work week -- the last full one of the cycle -- began with a flurry of surveys once again right in the heart of the competitive (and/or targeted) states in the rank ordering. 12 new polls from seven states -- Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas and Wisconsin -- highlighted the releases on the day, sending some mixed signals. And although the average margins at FHQ across those seven states moved things both ways -- some benefiting Biden and others Trump -- one often mentioned factor remained the same here as it has in recent weeks: Georgia and Texas remained among the most competitive on the board. That those two states are in that position and not states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (that Trump narrowly flipped in 2016) says much about the state of this race as it draws to a close. As FHQ has said over the last several months, if Georgia, Iowa, Ohio and Texas are the closest states on November 3, then Biden will likely be in good shape in the race to 270 (assuming the established order of states holds up). 

So the day may have sent some mixed messages on a micro-level, on the macro-level, the story remains much the same as it has.

On to the polls... 

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 50, Trump 48)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.24]
The RMG Research update in the Sunshine state was mostly a wash. The firm was last in the field in Florida a couple of weeks ago (Biden, 48-46), and while both candidates gained over that time, the margin stayed the same. Biden continues to lead there, but since the margin was once again below the established FHQ average, it inched downward slightly. Still, this is yet another example of the former vice president topping 50 percent in Florida.

(Biden 47, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +0.14]
Things have barely changed in Georgia over the last few days despite a number of new polls. Biden's already small advantage dwindled to +0.14 on Saturday and has stayed there since. There have been changes, but they have happened beyond the one-hundredths place, so they have been extremely small. The latest update to the UGA series of polls maintained that trajectory on Monday, but reversed course from the survey the university pollster released earlier this month. The president held a 48-46 edge in that survey. Yet that change did little to change just how close the Peach state is in the FHQ averages. 

(Biden 64, Trump 29)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +36.69]
As wild as it might be to think of a Biden +35 from YouGov/UMass in the Bay state lowering the average margin there, it nevertheless did. And again, it was, as in the Florida case above, below the established margin by just a hair. However, the new survey did mark the transition from a registered voter sample in the last poll in August and one with likely voters now. The Democratic nominee's 61-28 lead within the series, then, expanded in that shift (even if the average margin ticked down a notch).

(Biden 52, Trump 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.12]
The first in the latest round of Rust Belt surveys from YouGov/University of Wisconsin came from Michigan. And it is that first of three polls that showed the same thing: movement toward the former vice president since the last round in September (Biden, 51-45). Most of that movement in the Michigan polls from September to October was away from Trump more than it was toward Biden. But in both polls, the Democratic nominee was above 50 percent, continuing a trend there over the last month or more. 

(Biden 51, Trump 44 via Ipsos | Trump 48, Biden 46 via InsiderAdvantage | Biden 52, Trump 44 via YouGov/University of Wisconsin)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.37]
YouGov was also in the field in Pennsylvania, and like in Michigan, the Biden lead in the latest poll expanded relative to the last one in September (Biden, 49-45). But in the Keystone state (as opposed to Michigan), it was Biden who gained more than Trump lost over that span. The same general dynamic was true of the update to the Ipsos series in the commonwealth as well. There, too, Biden edged over the 50 percent mark since the last poll a week ago (Biden, 49-45), but the former vice president also gained more during that interim period than Trump lost. However, the third poll out of Pennsylvania on Monday ran counter to the the movement toward Biden in the other two surveys out today. The update from Insider Advantage saw a narrow 46-43 Biden lead from September gave way to a narrow Trump advantage now. But just for some context, the last time Trump was ahead in Pennsylvania was a Spry Strategies survey in July. The president has led in just nine of the 121 surveys conducted in Pennsylvania in calendar 2020 and seven of those nine fell between January and May. Biden has been in control in the Pennsylvania polls since his nationwide polling surge in June and July. 

(Biden 49, Trump 48 via Data for Progress | Trump 47, Biden 43 via Siena/NYT Upshot | Trump 50, Biden 45 via YouGov/Hobby Center)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.49]
There was also a trio of new polls in the Lone Star state today. And this was a source of, if not good, then better news for the president. Both the poll from the Democratic-leaning Data for Progress and the one from Siena basically held the line from their immediately prior surveys in their series in Texas. Both candidates saw their support increase in the Data for Progress survey relative to the last one a week ago, but Biden's one point lead remained the same. In the Siena survey, Trump grew his advantage by one as Biden stayed stuck on a 43 percent share of support for a second consecutive month. Finally, YouGov also fielded a new poll in Texas, but it was its first partnered with the Hobby School at the University of Houston. This is the firm's fourth different partner in a Texas poll this year and it is in line with the others that have not involved CBS News. Those polls with CBS have tended to be closer -- within a couple of points -- while the remainder have typically shown a Trump lead of greater than four points fairly consistently. That consistency is good news for the president's chances of holding Texas next month, but it also speaks to a swing toward the Democrats since election day 2016.

(Biden 53, Trump 44 via Ipsos | Biden 53, Trump 44 via YouGov/University of Wisconsin)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.34]
In the Badger state, the pair of new surveys out on Monday told a remarkably similar story. Not only did both polls show a 53-44 Biden advantage, but both witnessed both Biden growth in support and a contraction of Trump's since the last polls in the Ipsos and YouGov series. As Trump continued to be mired in the mid-40s in a state where he won in 2016 with just more than 47 percent, Biden pushed further above 50 percent. But at FHQ, the Democratic nominee rounds up to 50 percent in his average share of support in all three blue wall states -- Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- and with more polls coming in with him north of that mark, he may soon be above it as election day nears. 


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.

Even with a bevy of new swing state polls, everything held steady at FHQ to open the new work week. The map, Electoral College Spectrum and Watch List all remained unchanged from a day ago. That means that Pennsylvania, a state where Biden is closing in on 50 percent, continues to hold down the tipping point state designation, nearly five and a half points out of the president's reach. That was a steep climb a month ago. It is even steeper now at this late date. 

8 days to go.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 26 (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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