Saturday, October 3, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/3/20)

Update for October 3.

Changes (October 3)
Toss Up Trump
Toss Up Biden
After a rollercoaster ride of a work week that included the first presidential debate and the president testing positive for Covid-19, the weekend began with a surprising number of poll releases. And perhaps, more importantly, Georgia jumped the partisan line back into Toss Up Biden territory for the first time since early July. That shift comes with the typical caveats. Before the pair of new surveys of the Peach state were added, Georgia was already the most competitive of the Trump states. Now, it is the most competitive of the Biden states. And that change in color -- and classification -- is likely less consequential than the fact that Georgia remains as close as it has. In other words, this is to be expected. Georgia was basically tied, albeit tipped slightly toward the president, and remains that way, only tilted toward the former vice president.

And again, as has been said around here a number of times -- often in the context of the movement in Ohio -- if Georgia and/or Ohio are among the most competitive states on November 3, then states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are likely more firmly in Biden's column, and the former vice president's electoral vote total is at or over 270.

On to the polls...

Polling Quick Hits:
(Biden 47, Trump 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.52]
Siena/NYT Upshot were last in the field in the Sunshine state back in June and in the time since has transitioned from a registered to likely voter sample. Despite that change, the numbers have barely budged over those three plus months. Biden still holds the support of 47 percent of respondents and Trump's share only increased by a single point. In a state that the president is absolutely going to have to have to get to 270, that is not the sort change he needs. It is positive for the Trump campaign that the gap closed, however marginally, but it is not outside the realm of possibility that that is simply statistical noise.

(Biden 45, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +0.04]
There is a Hart Research Associates poll among the wave discussed below, but Redfield and Wilton Strategies also recently conducted a survey in the Peach state. Both show Biden narrowly ahead, but only the R&W poll is part of a series. And the last poll found Trump to be just ahead of the former vice president. Like the Florida poll above, Biden was stable (at 45 percent) while only Trump's number changed since mid-September, dropping a couple of points. That still leaves a rather healthy share of undecideds at this late stage of the race in a state that has been reliably red over the last generation. Regardless, it is Biden and not Trump who has now inched into the smallest sliver of an edge in the battle for the 16 electoral votes on the line in Georgia.

(Trump 51, Biden 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +6.11]
Although there have not been very many updates on the presidential race in Missouri in calendar 2020, Remington Research has carried much of the load. The firm has accounted for 40 percent of the survey work in the Show-Me state and the trend line has broken with the established trajectory of the presidential race. When, during June and July, Biden was surging in national and state polls across the country, there was barely any movement through Remington's lens in Missouri. But now that things have regressed to the pre-surge mean elsewhere, the Remington series continues to show a gradually decreasing lead for the president. Whereas Trump has stayed in the low 50s, Biden's support has continued to track upward at Remington over time. No, Biden is not likely to win the Show-Me state unless the bottom truly drops out for the president, but the shift since 2016 is indicative. Trump's support has trailed off by nearly six points as Biden has gained a nearly equivalent amount on Clinton's share in the state in November 2016.

New Jersey
(Biden 52, Trump 38)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +17.74]
In the Garden state, DKC Analytics has consistently had Biden underperforming Clinton's pace in the state from four years ago. But that has been overshadowed by Trump's own decline in New Jersey. The president topped 40 percent in the state in 2016 but has only hit (or exceeded) that mark just once in calendar 2020. And Trump sits more than five points below his 41 percent share from 2016. This poll did nothing to change the established dynamics for both candidates.

(Biden 49, Trump 42)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.36]
There was more of an interregnum between Siena surveys in Florida, but Siena/NYT Upshot was just in the field in the Keystone state a week ago before the first debate. Sure, the change is small, but the direction runs counter to much of the analysis in the wake of the first showdown between the two major party candidates in Cleveland. It was Trump who gained a couple of points while Biden again -- as in Florida and Georgia above -- remained stationary but all the while hovering around 50 percent.  And that has been the story in this series from Siena all year: Biden around the majority mark and Trump mired in the low 40s. In the pivotal tipping point state, one would much rather be in Biden's position than Trump's with just more than four weeks until election day.

(Biden 47, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.13]
Just as there was little movement in a pair of recent Siena surveys in Pennsylvania, there was not much to speak of in Wisconsin from Trafalgar Group either. The only difference was that the two back-to-back polls from Trafalgar were both conducted before the first debate. The firm shows in their release numbers from both before and after the debate, but the dates the survey was in the field precede the debate. In any event, Biden maintained his three point advantage as both candidates lost a point each. And that maintains a shift in the series from the right-leaning Trafalgar. Narrowly ahead there in August and before, Trump has fallen and stayed behind in the series in the time since the national conventions (movement that breaks with the return to pre-surge polling overall in the race).

Hart Research Associates (late September wave of battleground polls)

Georgia: Biden +3
Iowa: Trump +2 [Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.50]
North Carolina: Biden +2 [Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.48]
Ohio: Trump +2 [Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.33]
Texas: Trump +2 [Current FHQ margin: Trump +1.23]

Last but not least is an additional wave from Hart Research that pairs with a prior wave in five of the six core battlegrounds released earlier in the week. While the previous set askew as compared to where each state has tended to fall in the order of states on the Electoral College Spectrum below -- Arizona and Pennsylvania had wider than typical Biden leads and Michigan narrower -- this latest wave in mostly Trump toss ups is more in line with the order if not the margins as well. The one exception is Georgia. The Biden +3 in the Peach state is not out of the ordinary, but that the race stands there while North Carolina, for example, is Biden +2 stands out. The Tar Heel state has consistently been to the Biden side of Georgia in the order throughout the year. Now, of course, the Peach state has rejoined North Carolina in the Biden side of the partisan line.

NOTE: The finalized September data from Survey Monkey on Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have been added to their respective dataset and are reflected in the averages above. Prior to today, the data had only extended through September 28. The last two days have now been added.

NOTE: A description of the methodology behind the graduated weighted average of 2020 state-level polling that FHQ uses for these projections can be found here.

The Electoral College Spectrum1
(273 | 285)
(279 | 265)
(308 | 259)
ME CD2-1
(320 | 230)
NE CD1-1
(335 | 218)
ME CD1-1
(351 | 203)
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.

And it is that change -- Georgia jumping the partisan line into Biden territory -- that highlights the changes on the day. In fact, it is the only change, but a big one. The Peach state slipping into Biden's column raises his projected total back above 350 electoral votes, but note how small the margin is. With the Peach state that close to tied, it moving back across the partisan line in the coming days as new polling data is released is not out of the question. But Georgia is now the palest shade of blue on the map and on the Spectrum. And its potential shift has changed on the Watch List below. Other than the Peach state, everything else remained on Saturday the same as it was on Friday to close the work week.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 3 (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 Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Toss Up Biden
to Toss Up Trump
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Lean Trump
to Strong Trump
from Strong Trump
to Lean Trump
from Toss Up Biden
to Lean Biden
from Toss Up Trump
to Toss Up Biden
from Lean Biden
to Toss Up Biden
South Carolina
from Lean Trump
to Toss Up Trump
from Strong Biden
to Lean 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:
The Electoral College Map (10/2/20)

The Electoral College Map (10/1/20)

The Electoral College Map (9/30/20)

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