Saturday, October 31, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/31/20)

Update for October 31.

The sleepy weekend a week ago has given way to a busier Saturday this time around with just three days to go until election day on Tuesday. If one follows the path laid by yesterday's update, then all eyes are on Georgia, Iowa and Ohio as within range of jumping the partisan line. But the day offered no new polls from either of those Watch List states. However, the polling movement continued away from Biden and toward the partisan line in both Arizona and Florida. Both now have average margins here at FHQ under Biden +3. However, despite the trajectory of change, neither will make it close the Watch List between now and Tuesday. There just is not enough time nor will there be enough of a tsunami of surveys to trigger such a change. Yet, both Sun Belt states stand as states where the margins are narrowing, but Biden is increasingly hitting 50 percent in polls. 

On the whole, however, the movement on the day was toward Trump. Most of that was fueled by a series of newly released Trafalgar Group polls that dominated the 14 polls from 11 different states. There will be more on that below. 

On to the polls...

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 49, Trump 49 via AtlasIntel)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +2.98] 
AtlasIntel: Biden 45, Trump 45 in March poll

The margin in the Sunshine state ticked under Biden +3 on Saturday on the weight of two polls that either favored Trump or came in under Biden's average advantage. In the latter case -- the tie in the AtlasIntall update -- the race was knotted at 49. That is a result that is not at all inconsistent with the recent Florida     polling and is actually consistent with the firm's last poll there way back in March. Then, the race was tied at 45 (also among likely voters).

(Biden 54, Trump 43 via Public Policy Polling
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +8.30] 
Public Policy Polling: Biden 52, Trump 44 in September poll

Outside of the recent Minnesota polls in the Survey USA series, the race for the 10 electoral votes on the line in the Land of 10,000 Lakes has not been particularly close. Yet, despite that and despite the fact that the margin widened in the PPP series in Minnesota since the last poll in September, both Joe Biden and Donald Trump were in the state on Friday. The former vice president's share of support in the North Star state is above 50 percent and his lead over eight points there. Minnesota and Michigan resemble one another at FHQ, but there has been three times more polling in the Great Lakes state than in Minnesota. Than again, Democrats are fighting the last battle in a way in region in 2020 after Hillary Clinton's campaign was perceived to have dropped the ball down the stretch four years ago. 

(Trump 50, Biden 45 via Remington Research)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +6.40] 
Remington: Trump 51, Biden 45 in mid-October poll

One could quibble over the one point contraction in the Remington series of polls in the Show-Me state since the last poll the firm had in the field there two weeks ago. But taking a longer view of the series, that one point change is part of a downward trajectory through the lens of Remington polls in Missouri. In the last four polls the firm has conducted there since September the Trump's margin has gradually decreased from eight to five points. But the last three have been in the Trump +5-6 point range. Missouri will be closer in 2020 than it was four years ago, but the competitiveness of the state will only bring the Show-Me state toward the Toss Up/Lean line on the Trump side of the ledger. Again, that is closer but not close enough to be a state that would tip toward Biden in even his rosiest landslide scenarios. 

North Carolina
(Biden 48, Trump 45 via Meeting Street Insights)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.86] 
Meeting Street: Biden 47, Trump 47 in May poll

Much of North Carolina polling operates within three points range of three points from a tie. And Meeting Street Insights actually found the race moving from a tie in its May poll to a three point Biden advantage in its latest update. Again, the race for the Tar Heel state's 15 electoral votes is close and this update did little to shake the state from its position tilted between one and two points in the former vice president's direction. It is also in line with the current 48-46 (rounded) Biden lead in the FHQ averages. 

(Biden 49, Trump 44 via Muhlenberg)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.36] 
Muhlenberg: Biden 51, Trump 44 in poll last week

The only thing one really needs to check in any poll of Pennsylvania is whether it breaks with the pattern of Biden landing somewhere around 50 percent with Trump in the mid-40s. The update from Muhlenberg to a survey last week checks that box, but it also saw the gap between the two major party candidates contract by a couple of points. Biden lost two points while the president remained stationary at 44 percent. Barring an onslaught of new Keystone state polling between now and election day, the margin in the commonwealth is going to end up near Biden +5 heading into Tuesday. 

(Biden 50, Trump 48 via Public Policy Polling)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.37] 
Public Policy Polling: Biden 50, Trump 49 in early October poll

Just yesterday FHQ discussed the president's proximity to 50 percent in Lone Star state polling. Trump has only been at or north of the majority mark about a fifth of the time all year in Texas, but today it is Biden who hits the mark for only the second time in 2020. And that also has now happened in the second consecutive PPP survey in the state. In the end, that may say more about PPP than about Biden and how near he is to 50 percent. Texas continues to be a state that is stuck on a 48-46 Trump lead. That is about seven points closer than in 2016 and close enough to be a toss up, but still a state that is going to fall short of ending up on the Watch List as this race draws to a close. 

(Biden 53, Trump 42 via Roanoke College)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +11.74] 
Roanoke: Biden 53, Trump 38 in mid-October poll

Trump gained ground in the latest update in the Roanoke College series of polls in the Old Dominion, but that actually only served to pull him in line with the FHQ averages Virginia. Biden now leads on that count by a 53-41 (rounded) margin. If anything, the previous Roanoke polls overrated the former vice president's lead in the commonwealth. Overall, the averages in Virginia now have Biden running about three points ahead of Clinton's pace in 2016 and Trump lagging nearly three points behind his. That is a slightly below average swing from the results there in 2016 to the polling average now. 

Trafalgar Group (late October battleground polls):

Arizona: Trump 49, Biden 46 (Trump 48, Biden 44 in early October poll[Current FHQ margin: Biden +2.91] 
Florida: Trump 50, Biden 47 (Trump 48, Biden 46 in mid-October poll
Michigan: Trump 49, Biden 47 (Trump 47, Biden 45 in mid-October poll[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.32] 
Pennsylvania: Trump 48, Biden 48 (Biden 48, Trump 46 in mid-October poll
Wisconsin: Biden 48, Trump 47 (Biden 48, Trump 46 in mid-October poll[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.49] 
Nevada: Biden 49, Trump 47 (No previous Trafalgar poll) [Current FHQ margin: Biden +4.50] 
Minnesota: Biden 48, Trump 45 (Biden 47, Trump 47 in August poll

Rather than take these seven polls from Trafalgar Group individually, FHQ will look at them as a group. Clearly, Trafalgar is a firm that produces some of the most Republican-friendly surveys out there, but pushing that aside -- or merely assuming that fact for that matter -- the trajectory of change in those polls is still important relative to other pollsters at work on the state-level across the country. What emerges from this batch from the firm with right-leaning results is a mixed message. There is not clear signal. Arizona and Pennsylvania narrowed, moving toward Trump poll-over-poll. Florida Michigan and Wisconsin, on the other hand, witnessed either minimal change or maintained the previous margin. And the margin in the Trafalgar series in Minnesota actually widened, helping Biden. The only tie that binds is that all seven states are within three points. Yet, at FHQ, only Arizona and Florida meet that bar, and only just barely at that. 


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.

It was another day with a fair number of polls and very little to show for it at FHQ. The map and tally remain unchanged from a day ago as does the order of states depicted on the Electoral College Spectrum. And the eight state within a point of changing categories at FHQ were the same as they were at the close of business on Friday. There are some subtle movements afoot, but this still looks like a pretty steady race.

3 days to go.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 31 (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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