Trump Narrows The Gap

I am overdue for another update. The 2020 pages on Election Graphs are updated nearly every day as new polls come in. So you can always see the current status there for yourself in between these posts. But here comes another blog post…

Since the last update on July 24th, there have been new state polls in Pennsylvania (x8), Arizona (x7), Florida (x7), Michigan (x10), Ohio (x5), North Carolina (x9), South Carolina (x4), Minnesota (x5), Colorado (x3), Georgia (x5), Texas (x4), Virginia (x3), Wisconsin (x9), New Jersey, Massachusetts, Alaska, Iowa (x5), Maine All (x4), Montana (x2), Maine CD1 (x2), Maine CD2 (x2), Washington, New Hampshire (x3), California, Alabama, Kentucky (x4), Hawaii, Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, and Kansas.

That's 31 out of the 56 entities that allocate electoral votes in only 16 days. That's more than half. Given that, I'm going to stop calling out the states with polls each update. In short, the answer from now until the election is always going to be "a lot of them", and "multiple polls for all the close states".

It has been 16 days, how much has changed?

First the summary table of changes:

Model Metric 24 Jul 9 Aug 𝚫
Categories Trump Best
Biden Best
Biden +36
Biden +168
Biden +288
Trump +34
Biden +180
Biden +288
Trump +70
Biden +12
Tipping Point Biden +6.5 Biden +4.2% Trump +2.3%
Probabilities Trump 2σ
Biden 2σ
Biden +80
Biden +168
Biden +272
Biden +50
Biden +154
Biden +264
Trump +30
Trump +14
Trump +8
Trump Win
Biden Win

So compared to 16 days ago, what is the TL;DR summary?

Biden still leads by a large margin and actually improves his margin in the "everybody wins every state where they lead the average" expected case metric, but overall Trump has managed to reduce Biden's margin in a number of states, thus increasing the likelihood he might steal those states back and strengthening his position. And if he managed to flip ALL the close states, he could once again pull off a narrow win.

Now some of the charts, starting with the categorization view:

We can see that while Biden improved his expected case, Trump's best case has improved significantly.

So which specific states changed?

First, it was Iowa that moved from barely Trump to barely Biden, improving Biden's margin in the case where each candidate wins every state where they lead the average. But Biden leads Iowa by only 0.2%. And it looks pretty likely that the lead is due to a single outlier poll that showed a 6% Biden lead. So far no other polls indicate a Biden lead of that magnitude. So it would not be surprising at all to see Iowa slip back to the Trump side with the next poll, or at least when that outlier slips out of the average.

But then there is Florida. Biden's substantial lead in Florida has slipped significantly. He still leads, but no longer by huge margins. In our average Biden now only leads Florida by 3.0%. If the election was today, we estimate that translates into a 73.8% chance that Biden would win the state. But we actually have 86 days until the election, and there is plenty of room for this to move further.

The substantial swings here over June and July indicate that as polarized as things tend to be these days, there is still a non-trivial group of voters who have shown they can change their minds over time. In this case, they moved away from Trump for a while, but seem to be coming home again, once again putting Florida within Trump's reach.

Much the same pattern has played out in Pennsylvania. Biden built a substantial lead in June, but over the course of July, it faded quite a bit. Biden still leads Trump by 4.2% in Pennsylvania, translating into an 84.9% chance of winning the state in our model if the election was today. But that is significantly less certain than the 98.8% we had at Biden's peak.

Given Florida's 29 electoral votes and Pennsylvania's 20 electoral votes, together these states can change the margin by a massive 98 electoral votes.

Having these two states close enough to be in play is critical to Trump. At the moment, he is still behind, but close enough that it is easy to imagine scenarios where Trump could come back from behind and win them.

Not all of the movement was bad for Biden.

In Wisconsin, at the time of the last update, Wisconsin had flipped from "Strong Biden" down to "Weak Biden". But that didn't last long, and Wisconsin is once again a strong enough Biden state that we don't include it in Trump's best case. (At an 8.6% lead, our odds estimate is a 99.1% chance of a Biden win if the election was today.)

New Hampshire also moves out of Trump's reach with Biden leading the average by 7.8%, which would be a 98.6% chance of a win if the election was today.

But Wisconsin and New Hampshire are only 14 electoral votes, compared to 49 electoral votes for Florida and Pennsylvania. So the net change is 35 electoral votes in reach for Trump that were not when we did the last blog post, meaning a 70 electoral vote increase in Trump's best case.

So, now to dash through the "weak" states that are in play that didn't switch broad categories this time around, in order by  the number of electoral votes:

When you mash all of these movements together into our probabilistic model that doesn't just say that since one candidate is ahead in a state they are going to win it, but instead simulates many possible election results recognizing that close states can go either way, you get these trends:

Roughly speaking, the darker the color, the more likely the final margin will be in that range.

Looking at the center median line, where half the simulated election results were better for Biden, and half were better for Trump, Biden's most recent peak was a 180 electoral vote margin on July 17th. Since then he has slipped down to a 154 electoral vote margin.

All of the other bands have moved toward Trump as well, each to a differing degree. The moves aren't as dramatic as the categorization view shows, but there has been a steady deterioration for Biden since that peak.

June and the first half of July were a constant stream of bad news for Trump, and his position in election polls reflected that. Since then things have slowly been moving back in his direction.

To be absolutely clear, Biden still has a huge advantage. But less so than he did a few weeks ago.

It is still too small to see directly on the chart, but Biden's chances of winning when we did our last update rounded to 100.0% (it was actually 99.9931% in our simulation), and now they round to 99.9% (it is actually 99.9265% in our current simulation).

So that is still substantial, even if it is less than it was.

But that is if the election was today.

How vulnerable is that lead?

Biden's tipping point lead peaked at 7.3%. It is down to 4.2%. That's a 3.1% decline in a little over a month. If that trend continued, in another month Biden would still have a lead, but it would be quite tenuous.

That is not a prediction. It seems more likely that if Biden's spike in June was just an aberration and things are returning to the mean, that the tipping point will settle out between a 2% and 4% Biden lead.

But that is the level of lead that might just be a systematic polling error. Or that could be erased by a major event in the last few days of the campaign, too late to be measured by the polls.

So how does this look compared to 2016?

<86 Days Out> 2016 2020
Expected Case Clinton by 164 Biden by 180
Tipping Point Clinton by 6.0% Biden by 4.2%

So Biden is ahead of Clinton at this same point in time in terms of expected margins if all the states fell where their polls indicated. But Clinton's lead was actually a bit more secure than Biden's is right now, and of course, it slipped away before the end.

If the election was today, Biden would almost certainly win. But his lead is somewhat precarious. If 2% or 3% of people change their minds from Biden to Trump in a few critical states, Trump takes the lead.

Now the spectrum of battleground states :

Here is what it looked like in our last update:

And here it is today:

Out of the close ("weak") states, Biden only has to hold Arizona and Pennsylvania. He can afford to lose all the rest and still win.

But we're once again in a position where with a sweep of all the close states, Trump could win.

Finally, the current map:

86.0 days until polls start to close on election night. Stay tuned!

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 for current interactive versions of the 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.

Harris and Buttigieg Struggling in Trump Matchups

Apologies for the radio silence. I had been trying to post a blog update here weekly, but things got in the way the last few weeks. One of the items was the fact that my wife Brandy is running for local office, and I've been helping do things like put out signs and such. If you happen to live in South Snohomish County, Washington, take a look at her campaign site and vote! Ballots are due Tuesday! No polls for races like this, so no previews. We'll see the results when we see the results.

In any case, it is only the blog summaries that have suffered; the actual polls have continued to be updated this whole time. You can always check the 2020 Electoral College page for the current status. In any case, let's look at what has changed.

Since the last update, there have been new polls in North Carolina (x2), Ohio (x2), Virginia, Maine (All), Iowa, Minnesota, California, Florida, Wisconsin, Arizona, and Washington.

Let's look first at the changes to the national probabilistic views.

The main theme of the nearly three weeks since the last update is Harris and Buttigieg doing significantly worse in matchups against Trump.

Dem 13 Oct 1 Nov 𝚫
Biden +166 +184 +18
Sanders +124 +124 Flat
Warren +30 +36 +6
Harris +20 +8 -12
Buttigieg +24 -4 -28

All of the above vs. Trump. Sanders vs. Pence flat at Sanders +28.

The decline for Harris and Buttigieg is even more apparent in the win odds:

Dem 13 Oct 1 Nov 𝚫
Biden 99.9% 100.0% +0.1%
Sanders 98.3% 98.3% Flat
Warren 70.6% 73.1% +2.5%
Harris 68.0% 54.6% -13.4%
Buttigieg 66.8% 46.0% -20.8%

All of the above vs. Trump. Sanders vs. Pence at a 72.7% chance of a Sanders win. This percentage is down 0.1% from 72.8% on 13 Oct, but this is just random fluctuation of the Monte Carlo model, not a real change. (There was one new Sanders vs. Pence poll, but it was in California and did not make any difference.)

Biden ticks up to 100.0%, but that is because I round. It is really 99.98% at the moment. Still, Biden is doing extraordinarily well in these state by state polls against Trump and continues to get stronger.

Note that Buttigieg is now at a less than 50% chance to win against Trump. The last time any of the most polled Democrats were under 50% was in June when Warren briefly dropped below that threshold before rebounding.

At this point, there are three tiers of Democrats against Trump.

  • Winning decisively: Biden and Sanders
  • Leading, but narrowly: Warren
  • Coin toss: Harris and Buttigieg

Next, let's look at the changes in each state with new polls to see what is driving the national results.

Starting with California since it has the most electoral votes, but you won't find any hints as to changes to the national picture here. California is very solidly blue, and nothing is changing about that.

Florida, on the other hand, has lots of electoral votes and is close. So small changes make a big difference. Harris is now 2.6% behind Trump, which translates into only having a 16.6% chance of winning the state, down from 24.2% before this update. With 29 electoral votes at stake, that makes a real difference in the overall picture.

Similarly, Buttigieg moves from a 45% chance of winning the state down to 35%.

Compare to Biden with a 2.7% lead and a 71% chance of winning.

Florida is important. Winning it is part of many paths to victory on the national level.

So when Biden and Warren make gains in Florida and lead, while Harris and Buttigieg fall further behind, it makes a difference.

No category changes, but Sanders, Warren, and Biden are clearly improving, while Harris and Buttigieg (whose lines overlap) are moving in the opposite direction. In win chance terms, Harris and Buttigieg move from a 40% chance of winning Ohio, down to only 23%.

North Carolina is a key state. It is in the "swing state" zone for all five of these Democrats against Trump.

Sanders flipped from just barely winning, to barely losing in North Carolina.

That was the only category change, but both Biden and Buttigieg weakened considerably here. Looking at how this translates into win chances, Biden goes from a 91% chance of winning North Carolina to a 68% chance. Either way, still nicely favored, although certainly by less than before.

But Buttigieg drops from a 30% chance of winning down to only about 8%. Basically, from "OK, he's behind but has a shot" to "Yeah, not impossible, but it would be a major upset if he pulled off a win."

Every Democrat improves in Virginia. The state is still significantly under polled. So far, each update makes it look bluer as real 2020 polls replace old elections in the averages.

Biden's lead moves from "strong" to "solid" in my categorization.

Sanders' and Warren's leads both improve from "weak" to "strong" in the categories.

All the polled Democrats increased their leads over the historical average margin. Washington is a blue state that is getting bluer. It is not in contention right now.

In Arizona, Warren improves a little bit against Trump, but every other combination is flat.

All of the Democrats have significant leads in Minnesota, and the new polling just increased the margins for those polled. Minnesota is not currently in play.

With this last update, Wisconsin moved from Weak Biden to Strong Biden, and from Strong Sanders to Weak Sanders.

But the most significant change was for Buttigieg, whose 4.2% lead (85% chance of winning) dropped to a 1.0% lead (56% chance of winning).

Iowa is a swing state for all candidate combinations. But with this last update, Sanders and Warren both weakened, with Sanders moving from slightly ahead to slightly behind. Biden strengthened, moving from just slightly behind to just slightly ahead. Warren drops to only a 14% chance of winning the state.

The worst Democrat in Maine (Biden) still has a 99.2% chance of winning the state. Maine (CD2) might come into play again, but Maine as a whole doesn't look like it will.

That's all the states.

Now to wrap things up by looking at the changes on the categorization view. I prefer the probabilistic view these days, but just looking at who leads where and by how much is still useful.

The expected case changes:

  • Biden vs. Trump: Biden +242 to Biden +254
  • Sanders vs. Trump: Sanders +232 to Sanders +190
  • Warren vs. Trump: Trump +20 to Warren +38

And the tipping point changes were:

  • Biden vs. Trump: Biden by 4.4% in WI to Biden by 5.3% in PA
  • Sanders vs. Trump: Sanders by 4.3% in VA -> Sanders by 4.7% in VA
  • Warren vs. Trump: Trump by 0.1% in NC to Warren by 0.3% in FL

A reminder that sometimes the "median case" in the probabilistic view can have a different leader than the "expected case" in the categorization view.

Divergence like this occurs when there are states that the leader barely leads, and there is a better chance of enough of them to make a difference flipping than there is of states flipping the other direction.

One final categorization comparison to show the three tiers of Democratic candidates against Trump that I mentioned at the start of the post. Time to look at the "spectrum of the states" for the five Democrats against Trump and compare what they look like:

The Democrats that are winning decisively:

The Democrat who is leading, but narrowly:

The Democrats whose chances are a coin toss:

And that is where we are.

367.7 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.

Whoa, Look at Texas

Since the last update (not counting the update about new graphs) there have been new polls in Maine (All), South Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Texas, and North Dakota.

Of those, only Texas and Michigan resulted in category changes for any of the six best-polled candidate pairs.

In Michigan, Buttigieg moved from a 6.4% lead to a weak 2.8% lead in the Election Graphs average.

In Texas, Sanders, Warren, and O'Rourke pulled Trump's lead down under 5% into the "weak" category in the Election Graphs average. Biden had already gotten there back in June.

Texas is the headline.

Trump's lead in Texas in the Election Graphs average is now down to under 5% for four of the six most polled Democrats against him. Only Buttigieg and Harris lag. But even they are trending stronger as more polls come in.

None of the averages show a Democratic lead in Texas. That would be seismic. However, at this point five of the six Democrats have at least one poll showing them ahead in Texas. (The exception is Buttigieg.)

Nobody would call Texas blue at this point. But it is trending purple. We have enough polls for enough candidates showing only narrow Republican leads (or even Democratic leads) to say that it looks competitive.

Now, what does competitive mean? Let's look at the "odds" view, where we use the historical performance of final Election Graphs averages to convert the poll margins into odds of victory:

Democrats making Texas "close" essentially means Trump has a noticeably less than 100% chance of winning.

Of these six Democrats, Buttigieg is weakest…  with Trump still having a 99.2% chance of winning the state.

Biden is strongest, but Trump still has a 64.6% chance of winning Texas against him.

Now, that means Biden has a 35.4% shot, which is remarkable given where Texas has been in other cycles. But Trump is still favored.

Now is the time to once again mention that Election Graphs does not model how the race evolves. These "odds" are static snapshots in time. "If the election was today." The election is not even remotely today. Polls can swing wildly in just a matter of weeks, let alone the 15 months we still have until the general election.

This "closeness" in Texas could evaporate long before we get to November 2020. Or it could turn into a Democratic lead.

But it is clear that Texas is a state to watch, and Republicans will need to play defense there, and not take it for granted, as has often been the case in recent cycles.

Now, the national picture, where all the caveats above also apply:

This batch of polls changed the "Best Case" scenarios for Sanders, Warren, and O'Rourke in the category based ranges (their best cases now include winning Texas). But the "Expected Case" and "Tipping Point" did not change.

However, the new probabilistic based simulations do show changes worth reviewing.

This first chart shows the "median case" of the simulations, the spot where half the time the Republican does better, and half the time the Democrat does better.

Biden doing better than the rest of the pack stands out clearly. His median case is a 126 electoral vote margin over Trump. To put this in historical context, this would exactly match Obama's 2012 margin over Romney but be quite a bit less than Obama's 2008 margin over McCain.

Sanders also breaks out from the pack, doing considerably better than the other Democrats.

Both Biden and Sanders have improved their median positions significantly over the last few weeks covered by this batch of new polls.

Meanwhile, Warren, Buttigieg, O'Rourke, and Harris stay within a zone maintaining only small electoral college margins in the median case.

So, switching from looking at margins to looking at chances of winning:

Biden is pegged near the top right now. 99.6% chance of victory over Trump. There isn't that much room to improve, although weaker polls could certainly knock him off this pedestal.

Sanders clocks in second at an 89.0% chance of beating Trump.

Looking at the others, while they do have the upper hand on Trump, if this were election day, it wouldn't be fair to say it was anything other than "too close to call" with odds ranging from Warren at 58.2% to O'Rourke at 64.7%.

Election Graphs didn't have a probabilistic view in 2016, but the median "chance of Trump winning" from the sites that did was 14% going into Election Day. Only Biden and Sanders push Trump below that line at the moment.

So how have things been changing?

Comparing the odds of the Democrat winning from the update on June 23rd to where things stand now, we see this:

Dem 23 Jun 3 Aug 𝚫
Biden 99.4% 99.6% +0.2%
Sanders 86.0% 89.0% +3.0%
Buttigieg 65.5% 62.9% -2.6%
Harris 62.3% 62.2% -0.1%
O'Rourke 50.5% 64.7% +14.2%
Warren 53.2% 58.2% +5.0%

The stand out is, of course, O'Rourke. His improvement is almost all due to his performance in the latest Texas poll, which was better than all other Democrats, and significantly better than his previous polling in the state as well. So he adds to his chances of winning Texas, which while still under 50%, is enough to boost his chances of taking the whole thing significantly.

Warren and Sanders also improved a bit. Buttigieg dropped a bit. And Biden and Harris are essentially flat.

Finally, a quick preview of a new chart type coming soon to Election Graphs:

It is the equivalent of the Electoral College trend chart based on the straight-up categorization of states based on who is ahead, but with the results of the probabilistic modeling.

The dark line represents the median electoral college result in the simulation. Then the bands represent result ranges at different levels of probability. The deeper the shade, the more likely the result.

This is a visual representation of the single candidate time series of the probabilistic summary now on the comparison page:

The text summary will also, of course, be added to the candidate national summary pages once I get a chance.

I also added little circles in a lot of the time series charts to highlight the current values better. I think it makes the charts clearer. Hope you like them.

In any case… 458.1 days until polls start to close. Stay tuned!

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.