Monday, October 5, 2020

The Electoral College Map (10/5/20)

Update for October 5.

After all of the poll additions and changes a day ago, the work week began with a fairly steady stream of new survey releases, but with none of the attendant changes that Sunday had. Helpfully, there were several updates in states that do not generally see any real frequency of polling, and those always serve to further clarify the overall swing from 2016 to now. That number has dropped of late. A month ago, the average swing toward the Democrats across all states stood at nearly eight points. Now, just a bit more than four weeks ahead of election day, that average shift has shrunk to just under seven points.

No, that is not representative of some fundamental shift in the race, but the dynamics driving it underneath the surface may be. The Biden side of that change has risen from three to four points, meaning that on average he is running about four points above Hillary Clinton from four years ago. Trump had been running about four points behind his 2016 pace a month ago, but that has decreased to around two points now. Both make sense as the candidates continue to consolidate support (from undecided voters and those heretofore aligned with other candidates). But again, Trump remains more than six points behind Biden, or about the current margin in Wisconsin, a state on the other side of the tipping point from the president's coalition of states. With 29 days to go, that is quite a bit of ground to make up.

On to the day's polls...

Polling Quick Hits:
(Trump 57, Biden 37)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +20.40]
Auburn University-Montgomery was last in the field in the Yellowhammer state in July and found a race that was closer than usual there (Trump +14). But the transition to a likely voter screen in the time since then has only benefited Trump. Still, this poll finds the president running behind his 2016 share of support there while Biden is a handful of points ahead of Clinton's pace. No, that is not enough to come anywhere close to making up the difference, but even this poll in deep red Alabama is indicative of the shift toward the Democrats overall.

(Biden 49, Trump 41)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +3.18]
Over in Arizona, Siena/NYT Upshot conducted its third survey in the state dating back to June. For those who came looking for big changes, look elsewhere. Each of those three times, Siena has had Biden in the 48-49 percent range and Trump back around the 40-41 percent range. Yes, that has Biden out to a lead that considerably wider than the current average margin at FHQ, but it has been a consistent finding for the college poll over time in Arizona. And Trump is running further behind his average here than Biden is running ahead of his.

(Biden 54, Trump 33)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +27.21]
As with Alabama, it was good to get an update from the First state. And while Biden is ahead in the University of Delaware survey of his home state, the former vice president's 54 percent share of support is the lowest he has been in the state's limited number of surveys this year. And yet, in this poll Biden remains marginally ahead of Clinton's pace from 2016. Trump, on the other hand, lags well behind his support in the state from then. And that is not unexpected given Biden's favorite son status in Delaware (limited though that may be in the context of a polarized electorate).

(Biden 48, Trump 39)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +7.07]
Glengariff Group was in the field for the third time this year in Michigan, and the polls shows Biden up by his biggest lead in the series. It is Biden's largest advantage, but the former vice president is not even at his high water mark in the series in this poll. But Trump has reached his nadir, falling below 40 percent for the first time in a poll that was conducted completely after last week's first presidential debate. Trump does not need Michigan to get to 270, but Biden has been approaching 50 percent in the averages in the Great Lakes state as the president has been mired in the low 40s.

North Carolina
(Biden 50, Trump 46)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +1.48]
North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling may be prolific in surveying the state, but this is the firm's first public survey of the Tar Heel state since July. And this poll is in line with the rest. Yes, the samples continue to be among registered and not likely North Carolina voters at this late stage, but the trend line, or lack thereof, has been consistent: Biden in the upper 40s or right at 50 percent and Trump in the mid-40s. That nails Trump's FHQ average share of support there and continues to have Biden out in front of his by a couple of points. But it is another poll that reflects a continued narrow lead for the former vice president in the state.

North Dakota
(Trump 51, Biden 37)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +26.25]
DFM Research returned to a "registered" voter sample in its latest survey of the Peace Garden state. [There is no voter registration in North Dakota.] It is an odd transition considering the firm's last two polls there were of likely voters. And while the transition from registered to likely meant a contracted margin from February to March, the transition back did not have the opposite effect. In fact, the margin shrunk by about a fifth since the last mid-September survey to its lowest level all year. This does not mean that North Dakota is suddenly competitive, but it does show that even in states about as far out to the right on the Electoral College Spectrum as a state can get, the shift has still generally been toward the Democrats since the last cycle. Biden may still be down over 25 points, but he is running ahead of Clinton's showing there in 2016 by more than seven points.

(Trump 48, Biden 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +0.46]
This is the first Trafalgar Group survey of Ohio in calendar 2020. Despite generally being seen by many as a pollster with a fairly noticeable and consistent Republican house effect, this survey is not inconsistent with the recent polling witnessed in the Buckeye state. Trump's share is well within his range of recent results there, but Biden is at his lowest point in the state since a July Zogby survey had him at 43%. And this is below where the former vice president has generally been in August and September polling of Ohio. That is not to say that this survey is an outlier -- it is not exactly -- but it is particularly off on Biden's share of support.

(Biden 50, Trump 45)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +5.38]
The first of two Rust Belt surveys from Ipsos comes out of Pennsylvania. And it is the first of two polls from the firm that are right in line with the margins in both states. In the Keystone state, the president trails by five points with both candidates just over their respective FHQ averages shares of support. As in Michigan, the former vice president is approaching the 50 percent mark, leaving little room for the president to catch up and overtake Biden unless Trump can bring him down several notches. That may prove difficult in the coming days as the trajectory -- at least in some cases at the national level -- maybe heading in the opposite direction. Trump may not need Michigan, but if the order of states below holds, then he will need Pennsylvania to get to 270.

(Trump 50, Biden 40)
[Current FHQ margin: Trump +14.58]
On the whole, the surveys of Utah from Y2 Analytics have shown a much closer than usual race for the Beehive state's six electoral votes. Whereas the previous two polls from back in the spring found a race in the low to mid-single digits, the latest update from the firm has that lead expanding but still falling below the average margin. Still, for the first time in the series, Y2 has Trump at 50 percent. Both candidates are running well ahead of either their or their party's showing in the state last time around and by substantial margins. Third party candidates are not pulling nearly what Evan McMullin received in the state in 2016. Trump is very likely to win in Utah and improve on his support in the process. But it looks like it will fall below the 60 percent Republican candidates have averaged there over the previous three cycles.

(Biden 50, Trump 44)
[Current FHQ margin: Biden +6.12]
Finally, the second of the Ipsos polls comes from out of the Badger state. And like the Pennsylvania poll above, this one, too, is right on target with the margin and candidate shares in Wisconsin as measured in the graduated weighted averages here at FHQ. It may or may not be a bit early for herding to have started in these polls, but FHQ will confess that that is among the thoughts that sprang to mind on seeing these results and comparing them to the averages in the dataset. That said, this one is consistent with other recent polls and marks very little change from the poll the firm conducted in the state a couple of weeks ago.

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.

There was a lot to look at to open the work week, but unlike Sunday did not bring nearly as much change. In fact, the additions today did not trigger any change. The map, Spectrum and Watch List all stayed just as they were on Sunday evening. And with 29 days to go, that has to be at least somewhat troubling for the president. There just are not that many states in range of changing categories much less jumping the partisan line into Trump territory. Those states that are even in range of the partisan line are already states the president counts in his column. Any changes in either Georgia or Ohio would hurt rather than help the president. Time is dwindling for the president and so are his chances in this race with just more than four weeks to go until election day.

Where things stood at FHQ on October 5 (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 (10/4/20)

The Electoral College Map (10/3/20)

The Electoral College Map (10/2/20)

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