Texas and Pennsylvania close, Iowa flips red

Since the last update, there have been poll updates in Florida, Iowa, Texas, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. These new polls were all part of a single release from WPA Intelligence, and they ONLY polled the Biden vs. Trump matchup.

There are several caveats about this polling. For more on that, I'll point you to a great thread on Twitter by Charles Franklin, Director of the Marquette Law School Poll where he goes into the details.

Election Graphs tries to include everything though, without any fancy weighting, so a poll like this can make some waves. So let's look at what Election Graphs status changes came out of this polling.

Due to Iowa:

  • IA has moved from Weak Biden to Weak Trump
  • Biden vs. Trump tipping point change: Biden by 1.2% in CO -> Biden by 0.3% in OH
  • Biden vs. Trump expected case changed: Biden 290 to Trump 248 -> Biden 284 to Trump 254

Due to Texas:

  • TX has moved from Strong Trump to Weak Trump
  • Biden best case vs. Trump has changed: Biden 358 to Trump 180 -> Biden 396 to Trump 142

Due to Pennsylvania:

  • PA has moved from Strong Biden to Weak Biden
  • Trump best case vs. Biden has changed: Biden 250 to Trump 288 -> Biden 230 to Trump 308

We'll look at the national charts first, then dig into the state charts.

The most significant impact on the "envelope" is that it has widened significantly. Texas and Pennsylvania are now "in play," and just a few days ago Arizona started looking close too.

The difference between the case where all the close states go to Trump (a 78 electoral vote margin in Trump's favor, coming close to replicating Trump's 2016 margin), and the case where all the close states go to Biden (a 254 electoral vote margin in Biden's favor), is now huge.

There are lots of electoral votes in swing states, so there is a wide range of reasonable possibilities here.

At the same time, the middle line, showing where we are if both candidates win precisely the set of states where they are ahead in the poll average, gets closer. Biden still leads, but by only 30 electoral votes.

At the moment, this looks to be a very close race.

The tipping point chart shows this as well. The tipping point is the margin in the state that puts the winning candidate over the top. That is now Ohio, where Biden leads Trump by 0.3% in the current polling average.

As a comparison, on election eve in 2016, Clinton led Trump by 1.6% in the tipping point metric. And she lost.

Adding to that, given the historical performance of Election Graphs poll averages, an 0.3% Democratic lead ends up being only about a 48.8% chance of the Democrat winning. Given how actual election results have gone vs. the Election Graphs poll averages, the Republican is more likely to succeed when the Democrat leads by this narrow a margin!

Now, I don't have simulations in place yet for the full general election to produce odds there (maybe that will happen sometime in June if I get enough free time to do that), but with the tipping point this close to zero, and the envelope being so broad, things are clearly too close to call.

Now, let's look at some of the individual states, first with Biden vs. Trump only, then we'll compare to some of the other candidates.

In Texas, the new poll, showing Trump leading Biden by 7%, is the most favorable of the four surveys done in Texas so far, but along with the others, it confirms a race much closer than the historical average of a 16.1% Republican win from the 2000-2016 elections.

This change was enough to tip the state into "Weak Trump" territory. With a 3.8% lead in the average though, this still translates into a 91.4% chance of a Trump win.

In Pennsylvania, this is only the third Biden vs. Trump poll. This poll shows the closest race yet and brings the average for the state back near the historical average election performance. Which of course means it is back in "Weak Biden" territory after a brief foray in the "Strong Biden" zone. Given the historical accuracy, this 4.5% Biden lead becomes an 88.6% chance of a Biden win.

Once again the best poll result for Trump out of three, and once again a large range in recent polls. This time the average gets pulled from just barely Biden, to just barely Trump.

Before we start comparing to other candidates, one more state to highlight:

Biden vs. Trump in Michigan now has FIVE polls. This matchup/state combo is the first to have a full five data points, meaning the polling average is based only on actual polls and is not being "filled out" using previous election results.

Presumably, this will be happening more and more often now, but this is the first.

Now, this set of polls ONLY looked at Biden vs. Trump, but it moved how Biden was doing relative to the other Democratic contenders in terms of how they fare against Trump.

Before this set of polls, there had been Biden vs. Trump polling in 12 states: MA, MI, NH, WI, NV, PA, OH, IA, NC, AZ, TX, SC.

Of those states, Biden did better against Trump than the rest of the "best polled" candidates in all except New Hampshire and Michigan.

So he was better than the other Democrats in 83.3% of the states where there was polling.

Let's see where he is after these six polls:

In Texas, Biden continues to do better than the other Democrats. So still 10/12.

This survey is the very first poll in Florida, so the other candidates still show up as the average of the last five elections. But the new data point makes Florida a bit redder, so Biden is not doing better than the others here now. So 10/13 now.

In Pennsylvania, Biden had been doing better than the rest, but now he ties with Sanders and Warren. So now 9/13.

Michigan WAS one of the two states where Biden wasn't doing better than the other Democrats. Now he is. So 10/13.

Biden had been doing best in Wisconsin. Now Warren does better. 9/13.

Biden had been doing best in Iowa, now both Sanders and O'Rourke do better. So we are now at 8/13.

8/13 = 61.5%. So of the individual states where there has been polling, what HAD been a very consistent story of Biden doing better than everyone else against Trump has slipped considerably.

A quick look nationally:

The "expected case" where each candidate gets the states where they lead in the Election Graphs average, no more, no less, still has Biden winning by a 30 electoral vote margin, while Sanders only wins by 6 electoral votes, and O'Rourke, Warren, and Harris all LOSE to Trump by 6 electoral votes. So Biden is still slightly ahead here.

In the tipping point though,  Biden now leads by 0.3%, which is better than O'Rourke, Warren, and Harris, who all lose by 0.1%. But Sanders leads by 1.0%.

So by this metric Sanders is doing better in the national race than Biden against Trump.

So what does this mean? Biden being ahead on the electoral vote margin, but behind on tipping point, essentially means that while his expected winning margin might be more, that lead is much more precarious.

Of course, as I said before, Clinton had a 1.6% tipping point lead and lost. So with all of these tipping points, the bottom line is that this still looks like a very very close race.

No matter which Democrat you pit against Trump, it looks like a dead heat.

And there is no longer a convincing case that any one of those Democrats is doing distinctly better than the others against Trump.

Can I put this in terms of percent chances of winning for each of the Democrats when matched against Trump? No. Not yet. But I'll be working on it.

Stay tuned. Everything is wide open.

539.8 days until polls start to close.

For more information:

This post is an update based on the data on the Election Graphs Electoral College 2020 page. Election Graphs tracks a poll-based estimate of the Electoral College. The charts, graphs, and maps in the post above are all as of the time of this post. Click through on any image to go to a page with the current interactive versions of that chart, along with additional details.

Follow @ElectionGraphs on Twitter or Election Graphs on Facebook to see announcements of updates. For those interested in individual poll updates, follow @ElecCollPolls on Twitter for all the polls as I add them. If you find the information in these posts informative or useful, please consider visiting the donation page.

The 2020 Starting Line

Well, here we are. A few months later than I intended, but it is finally time to launch the Election Graphs coverage of Election 2020.

Before I start rolling in the state polls that have already come out, let's look at a more general Democratic vs Republican view based on the last few elections, just as I did four years ago.

Election Graphs uses a five poll average generally (with certain exceptions I won't get into here). When there have not yet been five polls, we use previous election results to "jump start" the poll averages.

The map above represents the average percentage margins (Republican-Democrat) over the last five election cycles. That would be 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016. This is a very long time period. Things look different in 2019 than they did in 2000.

You could argue that just using the 2016 results would be a better starting point, but averaging over a long time period like this to some degree gives us an impression of where states stand independent of the specifics of any one specific election.

Looking at specific states and where those averages are, you get this spectrum:

Specifically, let's zoom in and look at the states where the margin in this 5 cycle average is under 10%:

These are the states (and Maine and Nebraska congressional districts) that look like they are in play based on the historical results from 2000 to 2016.

Once we get close to the election, "Strong" states mostly will slip out of reach. (Although Wisconsin was a "Strong Clinton" state and Trump still managed to win it, so it CAN happen, it is just exceedingly rare.) This far out though, just under 612 days until the first election night polls close, this whole zone is potentially up for grabs.

If the right set of events happens, even some states outside of this group may end up becoming competitive. Major changes do happen during presidential campaigns. But here at the beginning, it seems unlikely that any of the states (or CD's) outside of those above will be in play.

Things will move quickly as new polls putting actual candidates against each other get added. But this is the starting line.

Where does this put us in terms of who might be ahead or behind? Election Graphs traditionally not only shows an electoral college breakdown based on who is ahead in every state but also where things would end up if you let all of the "Weak" states swing to one or the other candidate to generate "Best Case" scenarios for each candidate.

Here is what that looks like at the starting line:

DEM REP Margin
REP Best 216 322 REP by 106 EV
Expected 272 266 DEM by 6 EV
DEM Best 332 206 DEM by 126 EV
The tipping point state is Iowa where DEM is ahead by 1.1%.

So… we start at essentially a dead heat. The average of the last five elections (three where Republicans won, and two where Democrats won), is a Democratic squeaker. When you throw the "Weak" states from side to side, you get a fairly large range as well.

That's as good a place to start a presidential race as any. Dead even.

Now the specific candidates for 2020 will start differentiating themselves with their campaigns, and they will move this to one side or another… or of course, we can arrive at the election itself with things still too close to call… which is always fun.

Before I close out this post and start adding in actual 2020 polls though, it is worth also looking at how this "five election average" has shifted over the years. I currently have elections back to 1980 entered into the data Election Graphs pulls from, so we can look at these averages back through 1996.

First up, here is the electoral college trend itself:

From 1996 through 2008, each election moved the electoral college results based on these averages toward the Democrats… even when the Republicans won… because they won by less than the Republicans from the earlier elections that dropped out of the average.

That stopped in 2012. Obama won in 2012, but not as strongly as Clinton won in 1992, which dropped off the five election average that year.

Then Trump won in 2016, which was obviously a more Republican result than Clinton winning in 1996.

2016 also reversed another trend, which was that the electoral college totals of the states that were closer than 5% had been going down with each election. In other words, there were fewer close states each time. But dropping 1996 and adding 2016 expanded the range between "best case" scenarios a bit. We have a wider playing field going into 2020 than we did going into 2016.

Next, the tipping point:

This basically shows the same pattern, so I won't spend time digging deeper there.

But there is one more place to spend a little time. Time to look at how each state moved from the 1996-2012 average to the 2000-2016 average.

Let's start this historical review with an animation of the national view flipping between how things looked four years ago, and how they look today:

As expected, since we are replacing Clinton's 1996 win with Trump's 2016 win, the overall map becomes redder and blue retreats.

Now let's look at individual states that moved to different Election Graphs categories ("Solid", "Strong", "Weak" for either party) in this change.

Of these category changes, only two favored the Democrats:

Every other category change was toward the Republicans:

All of the states moved of course. The ones highlighted here are just the ones that shifted between my categories. And of course, many of those were not decisive. But the shift toward the Republicans is clear.

The stage is set.

Next up, very soon, I'll start folding in the polls on specific candidate matchups that have already been released on the state level, and we'll see how things look once we are looking at real data on the 2020 race rather than just long term generic averages.

The race is on, and Election Graphs will be tracking it for you.

Here we go.