Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/4/20)

Update for October 4.

Changes (October 4)
Toss Up Trump
Lean Trump
Toss Up Biden
Toss Up Trump
Lean Trump
Strong Trump
New Hampshire
Lean Biden
Strong Biden
New Mexico
Strong Biden
Lean Biden
No, Sunday did not bring a flood of new poll releases. There were just a couple from YouGov out of the Rust Belt. But FHQ did incorporate the four waves -- June, July, August and September -- of surveys across the country from Survey Monkey. The addition of more than 200 polls into the dataset was not without consequence, but the changes were limited in the face of that flood of newly introduced information.

The most consequential change was Georgia hopping back over the partisan line into the Trump group of states after having just shifted to Biden by the slimmest of margins a day before. But again, as FHQ cautioned yesterday, the shade that the Peach state takes on is probably less important than the fact that it is as close as it is. Georgia may have pushed back onto Trump turf, but there are just 0.12 points separating the candidates there.

The other changes brought about by the Survey Monkey polls were more about calibrating the states' positioning in the rank ordering (see Electoral College Spectrum below) than they were about any fundamental shake up to the overall alignment. Alaska and Louisiana moving deeper into Trump territory makes some sense. The Last Frontier moving out of the Toss Up Trump category and into the lower end of the Lean Trump range "feels" right even if the changes brought about by the four new surveys brings Trump basically in line with his showing there on election day in 2016. In other words, the lack of swing now in Alaska is not consistent with the more than two points Trump has lost on average across the country in the time.

On the other side of the partisan line, the shifts in New Hampshire and New Mexico are noteworthy but a function of a general lack of polling overall in each. New Hampshire was at least trending toward the Strong/Lean line on the Biden side of the ledger, but the Survey Monkey polls were all overly Biden-friendly and had small sample sizes. Things in the Land of Enchantment are much more clearly about four new polls being added to a small existing pool of surveys there. Its push into the upper end of the Lean Biden category would have raised more red flags had it not ended up on the Watch List below. New Mexico, then, remains in range of the Strong/Lean line.

All that aside from Survey Monkey, here is a look at the other polls to close out the weekend.

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 47, Biden 47)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.31]
The narrow one point Trump lead that YouGov showed in the Buckeye state when the firm was last in the field there in July has dissipated in the time since. Now, the race is even more a dead heat in the latest survey of Ohio from YouGov. Honestly, this does not represent any real change in the state over the last couple of months. Ohio has been close at FHQ. Period. Sometimes that has meant a Trump lead of more than a point, but more often than not since FHQ began these updates in mid-June, the Buckeye state has been on the Watch List. [And yes, it did start out as a Toss Up Biden state before switching over.]

(Biden 51, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.39]
If Ohio has shifted eight points in the Democrats' direction since 2016, as the above poll would indicate, then the new YouGov survey of Pennsylvania is consistent with that. More or less a tie in 2016, the Keystone state is, according to this poll in any event, about seven points more Democratic than it was at the end of the last cycle. In truth, the average margin at FHQ in the commonwealth is a bit more modest than this poll, but this YouGov survey is not all that divergent from other recent Pennsylvania polls. Furthermore, it is consistent with the last poll the firm conducted there in August (49-43, Biden). In other words, it maintained the status quo there.

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
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.

Sunday did not lack for changes here at FHQ. The map had its changes as discussed above and so, too, did the order on the Spectrum. But that realignment in the order was concentrated outside of the middle column of most competitive states. In fact, from Michigan at the bottom of the second column from the left to Texas, there was no change in the alignment of states (meaning that Pennsylvania remains the tipping point). That is an important point. Granted, that group of states is among the most polled of the cycle, and the addition of four new polls would have less of an impact there than if four new polls were added to one existing poll in Vermont, for example.

The bigger change might be to the Watch List below. Of the ten states that were on the List a day ago, only Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania remain within a point of changing categories. And they are joined by just two other states -- New Hampshire and New Mexico -- today. That sort of paring down of the List is indicative of a certain calibration in the order. The vast majority of states have pushed firmly into the categories in which they now reside. That is not to say that those other states cannot change, but that there is some insulation there now that was not yesterday.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 4 (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 Trump
to Toss Up Biden
New Hampshire
from Strong Biden
to Lean Biden
New Mexico
from Lean Biden
to Strong 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.

Related posts:
The Electoral College Map (10/3/20)

The Electoral College Map (10/2/20)

The Electoral College Map (10/1/20)

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