Tuesday, October 27, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/27/20)

Update for October 27.

Once the week hits Tuesday, the flow of new survey data gets turned up. Or it least it has the last several weeks as election day has approached. This Tuesday -- a Tuesday just one week removed from election day on November 3 -- was no different. There were 22 polls released since the last FHQ update from 17 different states representing all six categories. The balance continued to tilt in the former vice president's direction overall but also in this batch of surveys. Obviously the map still depicts a tally that favors Biden, but the Democratic nominee saw the margins in 11 of those 17 states. Six of the eight toss up states at FHQ had new polls released today -- only Ohio and Texas were not represented -- and Biden's margin ticked up in four of them. But the two where Trump closed the gap were notable. Unfortunately, for the president, both Florida and North Carolina continue to be consistently tipped toward Biden. 

Anyway, there is a lot to look at today, so on to the polls... 

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 49, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +2.88] 
The update from OH Predictive in Arizona maintains the status quo in the series. Earlier this month, the firm pegged the presidential race in the Grand Canyon state at Biden, 49-45. Trump gained a point, then, but this latest survey is consistent with all of the polls in the series since July with the exception of the outlier OH Predictive survey that had Biden ahead by ten points. 

(Biden 65, Trump 29)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +29.56] 
Further west in California, the race for the biggest electoral vote prize looks as predictable as it has in most recent cycles. Biden has the edge in the latest UC-Berkeley poll, but this one dies represent a slight contraction from the 67-28 lead the former vice president held in the mid-September survey of the Golden state. What is perhaps most interesting is that after the addition of this poll, the FHQ average in the state stood at Biden 61-32. That represent almost no swing from election day 2016 (Clinton won 62-32 in California.) to 2020 polling

(Biden 50, Trump 48 via Florida Atlantic | Trump 49, Biden 44 via Susquehanna)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.12] 
The pair of polls out of the Sunshine state today both shifted in Trump's direction since the last surveys in their respective series. Biden retained the lead in FAU poll, but saw his advantage cut in half since the last poll earlier this month. However, the new poll pushes back toward the tie the university pollsters found in early September. The former vice president led in the last Susquehanna poll as well, but that three point advantage in late September disappeared in the interim period and was replaced by this latest Trump +5 survey. And while 49 percent is toward the top of the president's range in his adopted home state, Biden's 44 percent share is unusual. The former vice president has dipped below 45 percent in Florida polls in 2020, but in 102 surveys of the Sunshine state this year, it has only happened four times. That makes this one an outlier.

(Biden 51, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +0.25] 
Florida was hardly the only place where Biden ended up a bit far afield of his normal range. But in the new Civiqs update, the Democratic nominee's share ran ahead of his established average here at FHQ rather than behind it as in the Susquehanna survey of Florida. Currently, the FHQ average in the Peach state sits at a 47-47 tie, and the last two iterations of the Civiqs polls have tended to have Biden not only ahead, but topping 50 percent. In the 32 polls conducted in Georgia since the beginning of September, Biden has been at or over 50 percent just six times. It happens, and far more frequently as compared to Georgia polling before September, but it is still not necessarily a common landing point for Biden. Still, this poll represents a two point swing toward Biden since the last poll -- Biden, 50-47 -- from Civiqs last month.

(Trump 48, Biden 40)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +11.45] 
The first publicly available Ragnar Research survey of Indiana in calendar 2020 finds Trump's support ebbing to its lowest level in the state all year. It is the Trump number, then, in this survey that is more off target, lagging about five points off the president's established average share at FHQ. As of now, the average in the Hoosier state has Trump out to a comfortable 53-41 advantage, which leaves Indiana about where the average swing from 2016 to the polling now. Biden has gained a couple of points on Clinton's showing there four years ago, and the president has trailed off by more than four points. 

(Biden 50, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.63] 
There is perhaps a reason Joe Biden is heading to Iowa on Friday. Polls like the update from RABA Research in the state point toward a race that has not only narrowed during October, but has begun to favor the former vice president. Biden did lead 48-46 in the last RABA poll at the end of September and that edge has doubled since then with the Democratic nominee now topping 50 percent. That is a level that Biden has hit or surpassed in a quarter of the 12 surveys released this month in the Hawkeye state. Furthermore, he has been tied or ahead in ten of those 12 polls. As Biden has risen, Trump has stayed around a 47 percent average share of support in Iowa.

(Trump 52, Biden 38)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +9.37] 
Although it offered a very small sample -- just over 300 registered voters -- the Fort Hays State survey was on par with where the president has been both in other recent polls in the Sunflower state and in the FHQ average. But this is another poll where the Biden number was off the mark. Generally, the former vice president has outperformed the Clinton baseline from 2016 by six points, but this survey has him much closer to where Clinton ended up in Kansas four years ago. Kansas is still very much a red state at the high end of the Lean Trump category, but it is also a state with an above average swing toward the Democrats during this cycle. It is a ten point shift from election day 2016 to the polling in 2020 with Trump losing four points off his pace in that time. 

(Trump 59, Biden 36)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +17.59] 
Interestingly, the shift in Louisiana has been far less pronounced. Biden has run almost even with Clinton in the Pelican state while Trump lags just a couple of points behind his showing there. Of course, polling has not exactly been prevalent in Louisiana in calendar 2020, but the new University of New Orleans survey finds Trump toward his apex in Louisiana polling this year. Biden, meanwhile ends up at the bottom of his range. The end result is a poll that pushes the FHQ averages toward the 2016 finish in the state. 

(Biden 58, Trump 33)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +30.73] 
Today's update is the first Gonzales Research survey of the Old Line state since May. And the underlying story the polls have collectively told is one of Biden falling short of 60 percent in Maryland. But the two polls in this series are the only ones to show that all year. And at Biden, 58-33, this poll is further off the 63-32 advantage the former vice president currently holds in the FHQ averages. That would represent a below average five point swing toward the Democrats since 2016 with Biden gaining nearly three points on Clinton and Trump losing two. 

(Biden 53, Trump 43)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.16] 
Yet another update to the Ipsos series in the Great Lakes state finds Biden incrementally adding to his 52-44 lead from a week ago. But that is both a small change and one that is in line with where Ipsos has had the race in Michigan over the last two months. However, while the margin in this survey falls outside of the Biden +6-9 point range into which the bulk of Michigan surveys have recently fallen, it is yet another poll with the former vice president at or over 50 percent. And his FHQ average share of support continues to track toward 50 percent as well. 

(Biden 53, Trump 39)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +8.51] 
Gravis Marketing was last in the field in Minnesota in June and had Biden out to a commanding 58-42 lead among a sample of registered voters. The switch to likely voters appears to have come with a less aggressive prompt of undecided voters and saw both candidates lose support as compared to the summer poll. But this was another poll in the Land of 10,000 Lakes with Biden north of 50 percent and President Trump continuing to hover in the low 40s. And ultimately the survey is not that far from the current FHQ average in Minnesota. The Democratic nominee now leads the president here 51-42. With a week to go, Minnesota does not appear to be the flip opportunity the president's reelection campaign came into the cycle envisioning. 

(Trump 55, Biden 41)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +15.41] 
Mississippi, like Louisiana above, is another Deep South state where the 2020 picture through the lens of the state-level polls looks quite similar to where the race ended in the Magnolia state in 2016. And the new Civiqs poll -- its first in Mississippi this calendar year -- is consistent with the current 55-40 Trump advantage in the FHQ averages. Both the poll and the averages find Biden in line with Clinton's showing in the state in 2016 as Trump is just more than two points off his mark from four years ago.

(Trump 49, Biden 47)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +7.80] 
Not surprisingly, a Public Policy Polling survey that has Montana closer than it has been in any presidential poll of the state all year also has Biden at his peak level there. But the Trump side of the equation also contributes to that tight margin. The president has only been below 49 percent once all year, so this one is also at the bottom of his range in the Treasure state. Two weeks ago, PPP did not find the race as close. Then, Trump maintained a 52-46 advantage that is more in line with the 51-44 edge the president has in the FHQ averages. 

(Biden 50, Trump 41 via UNLV Lee Business School | Biden 49, Trump 43 via Siena/NYT Upshot)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +4.55] 
The two new polls out of the Silver state today tell a similar story but took different routes in getting there. In the UNLV survey, Biden rose four points to 50 percent since the university pollsters September poll, and Trump held steady at 41 percent. That Biden around 50 percent and Trump in the low 40s outcome was also what Siena showed in Nevada, but that polls change since earlier this month was minimal. Biden tacked on an additional point, but here, too, Trump held pat. Both surveys depict a widening Biden lead that is a bit out in front of the FHQ averages in the Silver state. Here Biden is ahead 49-44.

North Carolina
(Biden 51, Trump 47 via Public Policy Polling | Biden 49, Trump 48 via Ipsos | Biden 48, Trump 47 via RMG Research | Biden 48, Trump 48 via Survey USA)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.80] 
Tuesday was another day that witnessed a rash of poll releases in the Tar Heel state. And all operated within a pretty tight range. Biden led in three of the four surveys, and they all overstate both candidates' support relative the 48-46 edge the former vice president continues to hold in North Carolina. But all four poll have margins that are on par with that Biden +2 lead at FHQ. Both the PPP and Ipsos updates were in line with their surveys out earlier this month. Nether candidate shifted more than a point in either. The RMG Research poll was barely any different, but found Trump moving up two points and drawing the Biden advantage in the last poll down to just a point. The largest change was in the Survey USA poll. But even that was indicative of a regression to the mean from an outlier than anything else. The Democratic nominee's 50-45 lead from early October disappeared and was replaced with a tie that was a return to what the race in North Carolina looked like in the firm's September poll. There may have been a lot of new surveys out of North Carolina today, but they all pointed toward a pretty steady race there. As FHQ has said, North Carolina is close (and has been), but is still consistently tipped the former vice president's way.

(Biden 52, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.39] 
The steadiness of the North Carolina polls is mirrored in the Civiqs series in the Keystone state. All three October surveys from the firm have had Biden stable at 52 percent and Trump firmly entrenched in the mid-40s. While that overstates the former vice president's support compared to the FHQ averages (Biden, 50-44), Trump's position in the October Civiqs polls has been proximate to his average. But again, one would expect polls to increasingly overstate the averages here at FHQ as more and more undecideds come off the board. The bottom line is that this is another Pennsylvania survey with Biden above 50 percent in Lean Biden state where he is closing in on 50 percent in the averages. 

South Carolina
(Trump 51, Biden 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +6.74] 
Last but not least, Starboard Communications conducted its first survey of the Palmetto state in calendar 2020. And while it shifted things ever so slightly in the president's direction, it fell right on the 51-44 advantage that Trump currently holds in the FHQ averages. If that is what South Carolina looks like on election next week, then it would represent about a seven point swing toward the Democrats since 2016. That is consistent with the average shift calculated across all states. 


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.

All that polling data and nary a big change to speak of. Instead, it was all subtle changes -- minimal movement in the margins -- that marked Tuesday. With a week left in the voting phase of the campaign, the map remained Biden 351-187 in the electoral vote tally, and the order stayed exactly the same as it was a day ago. However, the Watch List welcomed Kansas back after it recently left. The Sunflower state is now within a point of shifting into the Strong Trump category from the Lean Trump group of states. This race is steady as she goes in the polls as filtered through the FHQ graduated weighted average. 

7 days to go.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 27 (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 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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