Swing state polling and the electoral college map


CNBC has the first swing state polls in a while so it’s a good time to examine state polling and the implied electoral college map.

The poll has Biden up 7 points nationally but the swing states aren’t nearly as comfortable.

If we give the Wisconsin tie to Trump, and allot the other states by the lead in this poll and 2016 results I think that would imply this map with Biden up by 292-246. However it would be a precarious lead based on 1-2 points in Michigan and North Carolina.

Biden is more comfortable based on the full RCP swing-state polling but still not nearly as comfortable as his national lead of 8 points.
Wisconsin Biden +2
Florida Biden +3.4
Michigan Biden +4.2
PA Biden +4
NC Trump +0.6
Arizona Biden +2.5

If we take the states where Biden is up by 3 and the Hillary states that would be 297 but many of these polls are outdated which is why that CNBC poll is a bit worrying.

Overall Biden has the edge but it looks like the electoral college is going to be close. We should get more polls fairly soon and then we will have our first clear picture of the race before the final months.

I don’t think it’s worth overreacting to a single poll. This is the only poll that’s shown Trump ahead in PA, though it is the most recent. But it’s also a C- pollster by 538’s rating. Wisconsin I would worry much more about - for whatever reason, it seems to be drifting right. But, if the election were held today, I’d feel pretty confident about Biden picking up Michigan and Pennsylvania, and probably making up for Wisconsin with Arizona. NC/Fla/GA also seem within striking distance for him.

The race looks very close. A tinge of optimism may come from the punters at Betfair who have bid up the chance that Ds will win the White House to 53+%, higher than I’ve seen it in earlier months.

State polling is historically less accurate than national polling. So those swing state polls mean little.

As for worrying, when your President talks like a dictator, there is no such thing as a comfortable lead for the opposition:

I would be very shocked if Biden loses Pennsylvania. He was born in Scranton and has ties here still and he will spend a lot of time here and launch a comprehensive GOTV campaign in and around Philly and Pittsburgh.

State polling is less accurate but it measures what actually determines the winner so there is no escaping it.

The map at Electoral-Vote.com based on current polling is, to say the least, unkind to Donald Trump.

It has Texas and Iowa as tied and even Utah can only manage barely GOP.
Just adding up Strongly Dem and Likely Dem is only seven EVs short of 270.

The website adds the following explanation:

I’m not spiking the ball or anything but this is as hopeful as I have been in some time.

I believe the biggest high-quality state poll recently has been a Fox poll in Wisconsin (Biden+9) and Arizona(Biden +4). His RCP national lead is now 8 points. Things are looking pretty good for him but it would be nice to have a critical mass of state polling to confirm it. Trump’s handling of the protests have hurt him but I suspect once the story changes, the race will tighten again by a couple of points though still leaving Biden with a decent lead.

You left out perhaps the best part:

I don’t know if that’s a good assessment of McLaughlin but it certainly fits with Trump’s M.O. That likely mean the hits will keep on coming.

The Hill says Ohio is suddenly a battleground state again: https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/501427-ohio-is-suddenly-a-2020-battleground

November 2020 is going to be the biggest Democratic blowout that there’s been in many decades. Bigger than any of Clinton or Obama’s wins.

I do like electoral-vote.com, but as far as I can tell, its methodology is to mark each state as red or blue (or white for a tie), either in light, dark, or outlined based solely on the result of the most recent poll. There are some polls - partisan or particularly low-quality - that they completely disregard, but nonetheless, that is not a great methodology. Right now, the gap is big enough that it doesn’t matter, but I would pick 538 modeling over electoral-vote.com any day. Particularly if the race does tighten.

Fivethirtyeight reported this morning that the swing states that Biden needs are still way too damn close for comfort.

Wisconsin and Michigan are indeed looking good, however, and I think Arizona is going blue in November. But if no other states, I think my scenario adds up 269-269 and then chaos, where Trump is the Master Lord.

What does the 538 model say abut the current state of the race?

AFAICT, they haven’t yet launched the model you probably have in mind.

A summary of their recent output might be this: From “leaning Trump” to “leaning Biden,” the swingiest states at this point seem to be: Arizona, Wisconsin, Florida, North Carolina, Nevada, Michigan, Pennsylvania.

(Some polls have Arizona and Wisconsin more pro-Biden than this ordering suggests; and some have Pennsylvania more pro-Trump).

If this ordering holds, the tipping-point state is North Carolina. If it (and the rest before it, on this list) goes for Trump, it’s a 269-269 tie, and Trump wins. If it (and the rest after it) goes with Biden, he wins, 284-254.

BTW, the least-well-polled state in my swingy list is Nevada (as usual). There is at least SOME evidence to place it as (for now) “very tight, but leaning Biden” — see this aricle.

Here’s my own list of PredictIt derived swing states from bluest to reddest with cumulative D electoral votes. This is every state/district that both parties have at least a 10% chance to win.


State/district	Electoral Votes	P(D)	P(R)	Cumulative D EV
Minnesota	10		0.8678	0.1322	228
Michigan	16		0.8532	0.1468	244
New Hampshire	4		0.8501	0.1499	248
Pennsylvania	20		0.7863	0.2137	268
Wisconsin	10		0.7202	0.2798	278
Arizona		11		0.6902	0.3098	289
Nebraska CD-02	1		0.6830	0.3170	290
Florida		29		0.5974	0.4026	319
North Carolina	15		0.5840	0.4160	334
Ohio		18		0.4117	0.5883	352
Georgia		16		0.3969	0.6031	368
Iowa		6		0.3789	0.6211	374
Maine CD-02	1		0.2747	0.7253	375
Texas		38		0.2249	0.7751	413

In this snapshot, Wisconsin is the tipping point. Any of Wisconsin, Arizona, Florida, or North Carolina will be enough for the blue team to win.

If the current House selected the winner today that would be accurate for a vote along partisan lines. They do not though. November’s election will select the Reps that would handle the tie.

A darkly humorous side note just came to mind. We are most likely still looking at a Senate GOP majority. If November produces a House with Dems controlling a majority of delegations we could be looking at a Biden-Pence administration.

Which states do you think are going to flip from R majority delegation to D?

Do you think this is more likely to happen than D control of the senate?

That would be nutty, all right!
(By the way, the best hopes for the Democrats to pick up Senate seats at this point may be North Carolina, Arizona, and Maine, and just maybe Montana, Iowa, and Colorado. They’ll lose Alabama, though).