Wednesday, October 28, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/28/20)

Update for October 28.

Wednesday was another one of those days full of poll releases from across the board. In total, there were data from 22 new surveys in 12 different states added to the FHQ polling dataset for 2020. And while all six categories were represented, it was the middle column in the Electoral College Spectrum below -- the one with the most competitive states -- that was most heavily polled in this batch. Nevada was the only blue state toss up with no new survey data on the day and Iowa and Ohio were the only ones on the Trump side of the partisan line without any new polls. That means that the most frequently surveyed states got another infusion of data, but the end result was only minor movement. Six of the states shifted in Trump's direction and another five saw their margins move toward Biden. North Carolina held steady from a day ago. 

But again, the bottom line is that with six days left in the presidential campaign before voting concludes, Biden maintained the lead in the electoral vote tally that he has held for the last week.

On to the polls... 

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 48, Trump 44 via Gravis Marketing | Biden 49, Trump 43 via Justice Collaborative Institute | Biden 50, Trump 45 via Univision | Biden 52, Trump 45 via Patinkin Research Strategies)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.04] 
Arizona added the most new polls on the day, and importantly, the six new polls, including two backlogged surveys from Patinkin Research, nudged the average margin there back above Biden +3. On the whole, however, this group of surveys was fairly consistent with the established 48-45 lead the former vice president currently holds in the Grand Canyon state. The first Gravis poll of Arizona since September had both candidates losing support. The 50-48 Biden advantage then doubled but brought the series in line with the current average in the state. Both the Univision and JCI surveys hit the target on one candidate's average share of support, but missed the mark on the other. In the JCI poll, Biden's share was on par with his average while Trump lagged behind his. The opposite was true of the Univision survey. There, the Trump share in the survey matched his average share at FHQ while it ended up having Biden out in front of his average share. Finally, the Patinkin update to an early October survey that found the Democratic nominee up 50-46 saw that margin increase even further, pushing Biden beyond 50 percent. The former vice president has hit that mark less frequently in Arizona than in, say, the blue wall states, but he has hit or exceeded the majority mark 19 times in the 98 polls conduced in Arizona in 2020. And roughly a third of those have come in October. 

(Trump 65, Biden 32)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +26.14] 
A rare new poll of the Natural state was conducted by the University of Arkansas and had the president doubling up Biden. This wide gap in this survey is mostly consistent with the 61-35 average margin Trump currently maintains at FHQ. But that average makes Arkansas one of those states that hardly looks different from the 2016 presidential results. Biden's average share is a little more than a point ahead of Clinton finish there and Trump is actually slightly ahead of where he ended up in Arkansas four years ago.

(Biden 49, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.12] 
Univision's first poll of the Sunshine state in calendar 2020 does not stray far from the established 49-45 (rounded) average at FHQ. And Florida is one of those states with a below average swing relative to 2016. Biden has only tacked on a point and a half on to Clinton's showing there, and Trump is running only about three and a half points behind his pace. In total that is still a shift in the Democrats' direction the 2016 election to 2020 polling, but it is one that falls short of the nearly seven point average swing across the country. 

(Biden 50, Trump 48)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +0.28] 
North of the Sunshine state in Georgia, Monmouth was back in the field with another survey gauging opinions on preferences in the presidential race. And there has been a fairly substantial swing in the low turnout model that FHQ has been imputing into the dataset since the university pollster found Trump ahead 50-45 last month. But that was a bit of an outlier. Trump has not been back up as high as 50 percent in any Peach state poll since the September Monmouth survey. Moreover, he had not hit the majority mark in a poll until that September survey since July.  But this month, it is Biden and not the president who is at 50 percent. For comparison, since that September Monmouth survey, the former vice president has surpassed the majority barrier seven times. [NOTE: Using the high turnout model data -- a 50-46 Biden advantage -- would have increased the average FHQ margin to Biden +0.32.]

(Biden 51, Trump 38)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +13.57] 

Maine CD1
(Biden 56, Trump 34)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +23.27] 

Maine CD2
(Biden 46, Trump 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.75] 
There is far less suspense statewide in Maine or in ME CD1 and the update from Colby College confirms that. The numbers both statewide and in the southern, more urban district moved toward Biden since the last poll in September. But the margins shifted a sliver toward Trump because they both came in under the established average margins in both jurisdictions. And while the more competitive ME CD2 was largely unchanged in the time since the last Colby survey -- Trump dropped a point -- the average margin inched upward and toward Biden nearly syncing it with the average margin in North Carolina.

(Biden 49, Trump 41 via Siena/NYT Upshot | Biden 49, Trump 42 via Glengariff Group | Biden 51, Trump 44 via ABC/WaPo)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.17] 
It was another day with not only multiple polls of Michigan but with all them finding the former vice president hovering around 50 percent as he has for weeks here at FHQ and the president stuck in the low to mid-40s. The Siena survey was an update to a poll of the Great Lakes state earlier this month and represented no real change. A 48-40 Biden lead then morphed into a 49-41 advantage now. The margin may have closed some in the update the last Glengariff poll earlier in October, but it also had Biden's support pushing closer to 50 percent, a mark the Democratic nominee has been closing in on in the FHQ averages for a while now. The first-time ABC/WaPo survey basically fell in line with the current 50-43 (rounded) margin Biden leads the president by at FHQ. None of the trio find Trump significantly closing the gap in a state he flipped in 2016 but does not absolutely have to defend in 2020. 

North Carolina
(Biden 49, Trump 46 via Gravis Marketing | Biden 47, Trump 46 via Harper Polling)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.80] 
In the Tar Heel state, a pair of new surveys continued giving fodder to the FHQ mantra for the race there: It is close but consistently tipped in Biden's favor. The Gravis poll is the firm's first in the state since June and although both candidates have increased their support from Biden's 46-43 lead at the time, the margin has remained exactly the same. Harper Polling's surveys for Civitas in North Carolina have been the model of consistency since summer. It has been a one point race in one direction or another since the firm's August poll. And it was Biden's turn to lead in October after Trump had his turn last month. Neither poll is far off of the 48-46 (rounded) FHQ average in the Old North state.

(Biden 50, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.38] 
Like the Arizona and Florida polls, this was the first Univision survey of Pennsylvania as well. And even as the margin falls short of the five plus point FHQ advantage the former vice president has in the Keystone state, it is consistent with the 50-44 (rounded) lead there. And this was another poll with Biden at or above 50 percent in the commonwealth. Looking at the swing in Pennsylvania from 2016 to now, it appears to be a lot like Florida. Biden here is ahead of Clinton by a little more than a point and a half and Trump is lagging behind his 2016 performance by more than three and a half points. Together, that shift is slightly below the nearly seven point average swing across all states. 

South Carolina
(Trump 50, Biden 44 via Data for Progress | Trump 52, Biden 44 via East Carolina University)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +6.76] -
If it is a South Carolina poll this week, then it must have Trump in the low 50s and Biden trailing in the mid-40s. That has been the trend so far this week anyway and both the Data for Progress and ECU polls fit that bill. And neither survey has changed that much since either was last in the field in the Palmetto state. In the two weeks since Data for Progress conducted a South Carolina poll Trump's 52-43 lead has shrunk by a couple of points. ECU's last survey was the first in the state way back at the beginning of February, and that registered voters sample then also had Trump at 52 percent. Biden saw more growth since then in the transition from registered to likely voters, but only enough to pull him in line with his average level of support as measured by FHQ. 

(Trump 49, Biden 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.53] 
The update to the last Univision poll in Texas resembles the timeline in the Gravis surveys of North Carolina discussed above. A February poll of registered Lone Star state voters had Trump out to a 46-43 lead. But time and the switch to likely voters for the latest poll are more consistent with the current 48-46 (rounded) advantage the president holds in Texas. As FHQ has mentioned before, Texas continues to be the North Carolina of the Trump side of the partisan line. The two states are mirror images of each other with Trump holding the same 48-46 lead that Biden has in North Carolina. That consistency in both should be noted heading down the stretch of this race. 

(Biden 53, Trump 41)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +11.83] 
No other poll has found the race for the 13 electoral votes in the Old Dominion as close as the September Christopher Newport survey did. So, that the university pollster's latest Virginia poll has replaced that 48-43 Biden lead from then with a margin (not to mention candidate shares) to match those at FHQ is noteworthy. Virginia just is not in 2020 the swing state that it was in 2008 or 2012 (or even 2016 for that matter).

(Biden 48, Trump 43 via Marquette Law School | Biden 57, Trump 40 via ABC/WaPo )
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.46] 
Finally, the two new polls in the Badger state tell differing tales. Neither is wholly inconsistent with the recent data on the Trump side of the equation although the ABC/WaPo finding is on the low end of the president's range. But the real difference is on the Biden side. The former vice president was already above 50 percent in the last ABC/WaPo survey of Wisconsin last month, but for Biden to hit 57 percent this month is for him to hit his peak in polling of the state this year. It also nudges him a little closer to a 50 percent average share at FHQ. In fact, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have all been huddled up against but under that average threshold for a while with Michigan closest to crossing first. But on the weight of this new ABC/WaPo poll, Biden's average share in Wisconsin is now closer to 50 percent than in Michigan. The Marquette poll continues to find the margin in the Badger state on the low side compared to other polling. But it also may have been more consistent across the series. This latest poll is barely different from the 47-42 lead Biden held in the last Marquette poll earlier this month. 


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.

Things really have settled in at FHQ and time is running out for anything to significantly change between now and election day next Tuesday. That is not to say that nothing can or will happen to disrupt this race but that time and folks who have not voted are both dwindling. FHQ mentions that as preface to saying on another day that little has changed around here. The map and underlying electoral vote tally are where they have been for a week, the order of states depicted in the Electoral College Spectrum is unchanged from a day ago and the same seven states that populated the Watch List yesterday are there again today. That is just the way it is, but tomorrow may bring some new data that will alter that. 

6 days to go.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 28 (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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