South Dakota loves their incumbents, and a recent poll conducted by South Dakota State University seems to be marking Senator John Thune, Congressman Dusty Johnson, and (especially) Governor Kristi Noem safe in their elected positions, as their approval among South Dakotans remains largely unchanged since they last time they tested the waters six months ago:
The South Dakota Covid Impact Survey was conducted from April 12th to 25th, 2021 by The SDSU Poll, a research group housed in the School of American and Global Studies at South Dakota State University. A total of 3,057 registered voters in South Dakota completed our survey about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their daily lives, alongside questions on political beliefs given the partisan polarization of the policy response to the pandemic. The margin of error of this survey was +/- 2 %, which is less than most state-wide polls.
Overall Support of Major Figures Consistent with State’s Partisan Leanings
“Feeling Thermometers” are commonly used by political scientists to measure support of political figures, since it is a very intuitive and sensitive measurement. A score of 100 means a respondent has the warmest of feelings towards an individual, a score of 0 the coldest feelings, with 50 being neutral. Results of our survey show that South Dakotans are relatively cool towards President Biden. The President’s “feeling thermometer” is at 37. Given the fact that South Dakota is a solidly Republican state and that Presidents Biden got only 35.6% of the votes in last year’s election, this finding is not surprising. Former President Trump’s thermometer was at 43, which is nearly identical to the value of 42 from October of last year. The thermometers of Senators Rounds and Thune were 44 and 45, respectively, Governor Noem scored 48, and Representative Johnson 52. These results are similar to our findings in general electorate in our inaugural poll in October of 2020.
It is important to note that the feelings thermometers on Governor Noem and former President Trump were virtually unchanged between our April 2021 and October 2020 polls amongst South Dakota Republicans (their differences in ratings in both polls were within the margin of error), whereas our all-Republican congressional delegation suffered some serious dips in their popularity. Johnson, Rounds, and Thune dropped 9, 10, and 14 points respectively. This is a sharp break from the governor. As we noted in our post-election survey, most Republicans in the state questioned the fairness of the election. These sentiments ultimately came to a head in the January 6 assault on the Capitol, and have been sustained ever since in conservative media outlets. Through this all, the governor has remained steadfast in her support of the former president. Meanwhile, Johnson, Thune, and Rounds were walking a narrow path in their handling of the post-January 6th political environment: publicly breaking with the former president on the certification of Biden’s victory, yet voting against his impeachment. Since former president Trump remains the singularly most popular national figure in the Republican party, this public break has undoubtedly cost our congressional delegation some support within the party. However, given their overall levels of support, we doubt any risk to their electoral safety.
Woe be to any primary challengers, as according to the poll, Governor Noem is more popular than Donald Trump among South Dakota Republicans, while Senators Thune, Rounds and Congressman Johnson are all polling above 60% in their popularity among members of the GOP, and are all fairly popular overall.