Some Dems Up, Some Dems Down

Since last week's update, there have been two new polls in Texas, and one each in New Hampshire, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

For the six most polled Democrats against Trump (Biden, Sanders, Warren, Buttigieg, Harris, and O'Rourke) this week saw the following category changes:

  • Biden vs. Trump state category change: WI has moved from Strong Biden to Weak Biden
  • Sanders vs. Trump state category change: MI has moved from Strong Sanders to Weak Sanders
  • Warren vs. Trump state category change: PA has moved from Weak Warren to Weak Trump

Looking at how this impacted the national numbers:

In the "Expected Case" where every candidate wins every state they are ahead in, Pennsylvania moving from slightly Warren to slightly Trump means that Warren now only has a 12 electoral vote margin in this scenario.

Biden's lead dropping below 5% in Wisconsin, and Sander's lead dropping below 5% in Michigan meanwhile, improves Trump's "Best Case" (where he wins not only all of the states where he is ahead but also all the ones where he is behind by less than 5%) against both candidates.

As these five states moved around, several tipping points moved as well.

  • Sanders vs. Trump tipping point change: Sanders by 1.3% in FL -> Sanders by 1.9% in TX
  • O'Rourke vs. Trump tipping point change: O'Rourke by 2.1% in TX -> O'Rourke by 1.8% in TX
  • Biden vs. Trump tipping point change: Biden by 4.9% in VA -> Biden by 4.6% in WI

The tipping point changes already make it clear that this was a mixed week. Some Democrats improved their positions against Trump; some moved in the opposite direction. This mix in the situation exists despite all of the actual category changes being in Trump's direction.

The movement within categories that starts to be shown by the tipping point is something we can see even better if we switch to the probabilistic simulation view:

Dem 8 Sep 15 Sep 𝚫
Biden 99.9% 99.8% -0.1%
Sanders 95.8% 96.9% +1.1%
O'Rourke 80.0% 80.8% +0.8%
Warren 71.1% 69.0% -2.1%
Buttigieg 67.1% 67.0% -0.1%
Harris 64.3% 65.7% +1.4%

There were a lot of mixed results in a lot of states this week. But when you balance it all out in terms of the odds of winning in the Electoral College:

  • Harris, Sanders, and O'Rourke strengthened against Trump
  • Warren, Biden, and Buttigieg weakened against Trump

Another way of looking at this is the median margins in the Monte Carlo simulations for each of the candidate combinations:

Unlike the categorization "Expected Case" view, where Harris narrowly loses to Trump, all six Democrats lead Trump in the probabilistic "Median Case."

Warren, Buttigieg, and Harris all lead by 30 or less electoral votes, though. In electoral vote terms, that is a very tight race. Any state with more than 15 electoral votes slipping to the other side of the centerline would switch the outcome.

O'Rourke, Sanders, and Biden, each, in turn, have more of a margin than the candidate before, so additional buffer. They can afford for more to go wrong before they lose.

Now, let's look at each of the five states that got polled this week.

Of the two polls in Texas, one matched other recent surveys and was mostly favorable to the Democrats. The other showed clear Republican leads.

The net impact of the two polls on the averages was that Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Harris continued improving in Texas, while Buttigieg and O'Rourke got a little weaker.

You do get one piece of oddness, though. I use the methodology I described in my Polling Error vs. Final Margin post to translate margins into odds of winning. When I use the straight-up unsmoothed numbers from the 2008 to 2016 elections, there are a few places where the relationship between the polling average and the win odds are not monotonic.

This behavior means that even though O'Rourke's polling average dropped from a 2.1% lead to a 1.8% lead, my computed "odds of winning Texas" for O'Rourke INCREASED from 66.4% to 68.2%.

Now, I could have smoothed the handful of places where this non-monotonic behavior occurs out of existence. But I chose when I first set up the odds based view to use the numbers that came straight out of my analysis of the previous election results without any further manipulation.

Given the historical data and the methodology I used, a 1.8% Democratic lead is indeed slightly more likely to win than a 2.1% Democratic lead. Of course, this does seem a little crazy and is quite possibly just an example of overfitting.

But it isn't a huge difference and occurs at only a few specific margin zones, so I'll leave it be.

We still end up with a situation where three of the six Democrats are leading in Texas though, and another two make it close.

Texas continues to be one of the most important states to watch.

Sanders improved slightly in Pennsylvania.

Biden's lead deteriorated significantly.

Warren lost her lead to Trump.

The poll did not include the others.

Biden, Sanders, and Warren all weaken against Trump in Michigan with this week's update.

The poll did not include the others.

Warren got stronger in Wisconsin.

Biden and Sanders got weaker.

The poll did not include the others.

Biden, Sanders, Warren, and Harris all got weaker in New Hampshire with the latest polling.

The poll did not include Buttigieg or O'Rourke.

And that's it for this week's update.

415.6 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.

Muddled Week

Since last week's update, there have been new polls in New Hampshire, North Carolina, Alaska, and Washington.

In terms of category changes:

  • NH has moved from Strong Warren to Weak Warren
  • NC has moved from Weak Sanders to Weak Trump

That's it.

Biden's tipping point also moved from a 3.9% lead to a 3.4% lead.

All three of these changes are moves in Trump's direction. But if you look at the more granular changes, things are muddled, and it seems like a pretty flat week overall.

The national "win odds" from the probabilistic model now look like this:

In terms of changes since we looked last week:

Dem 11 Aug 18 Aug 𝚫
Biden 99.8% 99.7% -0.1%
Sanders 94.8% 94.1% -0.7%
O'Rourke 80.0% 80.0% Flat
Warren 65.8% 67.6% +1.8%
Buttigieg 62.4% 63.2% +0.8%
Harris 63.7% 62.9% -0.8%

Warren and Buttigieg improve a little bit.

Biden, Sanders, and Harris weaken a bit.

Harris drops to being the weakest of these six candidates against Trump.

O'Rourke doesn't move. But that is because none of the four polls this week even bothered to include him. Oops.

Let's look at each of these four states:

Biden is the only Democrat with a lead in North Carolina.

Before the Civitas poll added this week, Sanders had a very narrow lead in North Carolina as well. But although the Civitas poll was RELEASED this week, it had an earlier mid-date than the SurveyUSA poll that had given Sanders that lead last week, and so the Civitas poll (which showed a Trump lead) essentially erased that change from the chart.

The rest of the Democrats all lose to Trump, but narrowly.

The trends all show the Democrats generally improving as more polls come in though.

Except for Harris. She is getting weaker in North Carolina.

The Zogby poll added this week is the first general election polling for Washington State. Washington is a very blue state. But all five Democrats polled move the polling average to be even bluer than the 2000-2016 historical average.

It is of note that this is one of the very few states where Sanders does better against Trump than Biden does.

As usual, though, those two do noticeably better than the other Democrats.

Biden and Sanders have strong leads over Trump in New Hampshire. The other Democrats also lead, but by more narrow margins. The general trend as new polling comes in is toward the Democrats though.

Except for Warren's recent move in the other direction.

These are the very first Alaska polls this cycle.

Alaska is a very red state. But all five Democrats polled improve their Election Graphs averages over the historical average of the 2000-2016 elections that I use as a starting point before there are any polls.

As usual, Biden does best against Trump, followed by Sanders.

But Alaska is still a very red state.

And that is where things stand this week.

443.0 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 First 2020 Polls

A few days ago I looked at where all the states ended up if you just look at the average results of the last few elections. No 2020 specific data.

But there have already been state level 2020 polls. Sixteen by my count. They are now all included on Election Graphs.

When I do updates here, unless there is a strong reason to do otherwise, I'm going to only discuss the five "best polled" candidate pairs. At the moment, the only Republican polled so far has been Trump. (Sorry Weld fans.) The five best polled Democrats against him right now are Biden, Warren, O'Rourke, Sanders, and Harris… in that order.

So with that out of the way, let's start looking at some graphs!

The chart above shows the "expected" electoral college result for each of these five candidate pairs, assuming each candidate wins all the states they lead in the Election Graphs five poll averages. This average still includes previous election results since there are no states where there are actually five polls yet.

So what do we see? From the very limited polling we have so far, we see Biden doing noticeably better than any of the other four Democrats when pitted against Trump. In the electoral college, Biden leads Trump by a 42 electoral vote margin. Sanders leads Trump by 6 electoral votes. And then Warren, O'Rourke, and Harris all lose to Trump by 6 electoral votes.

The "tipping point" is perhaps a better way to look at things. It is similar to looking at a popular vote margin, but adjusted for the structure of the electoral college. Here Biden has a 1.2% tipping point margin over Trump and Sanders has a 0.9% tipping point margin over Trump, but Warren, O'Rourke, and Harris all trail Trump by an 0.1% margin.

Frankly, ALL of these results, for all five possible opponents to Trump, are firmly within the "too close to call" zone. Even if it was the day before the election, not 607 days before the election. With this much time left, and with the extremely limited polling so far, any patterns we see may easily disappear as new polls come in. It might even be safe to say they will probably disappear. It is still very very early.

Having said that, the Biden advantage is even more striking as you start looking state by state. The following charts show how the polling average in each state has moved as the polls so far have come in.

Note: Keep in mind these are all measuring how each of the Democrats would fare against Trump in the general election, NOT how they might fare against each other in the primaries.

Watch the red line. The red line is Biden. Down is better for Democrats.

OK, in California Biden hasn't broken out. He hasn't actually been polled in California yet. So his average is just the average of the last five presidential elections.

Biden doing better than the other four Democrats in Texas.

Biden doing better than the other four Democrats in Ohio.

Biden doing better than the other four Democrats in Michigan.

Biden doing better than the other four Democrats in North Carolina.

Biden doing better than the other four Democrats in Arizona.

OK, none of the top five have been polled in Minnesota yet. (Only Klobuchar has been.) So they are all still on one line.

Biden doing better than the other four Democrats in South Carolina.

Biden doing better than the other four Democrats in Iowa.

OK, we finally have a state where Biden has been polled and he isn't doing better than the other Democrats. In New Hampshire, both Sanders and Warren do better against Trump than Biden does.

But that is it. Out of 10 states where we have state polls so far, Biden does better than the other four Democrats in 7. In 2 Biden hasn't been polled yet. Only in 1 does another Democrat do better against Trump.

Now, to be clear, at this stage in a Presidential race, this may be due entirely to name recognition. Most people may still not have much of an idea who Warren, O'Rourke, and Harris even are. But surely they would know who Sanders is, right? His name recognition must be comparable to Biden's. Right?

In any case, the way Biden consistently is outperforming other Democrats against Trump in the polls so far is striking. And he hasn't even officially said he is running yet.

It will be interesting to see if this pattern continues as the field starts to gel, and the other candidates get better known.

Election Graphs will of course update as the new polls come in…

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 they are added. If you find the information in these posts interesting 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.