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Scientific Poll: House Race

May 18, 2004, 6:00 PM by Jodi Schwan

Scientific Poll:  House Race
house poll2

Two weeks from today South Dakota voters will elect a new member of Congress. And unless the numbers change, our newest KELOLAND-TV/Argus Leader poll shows Stephanie Herseth will win. But the race is getting closer.

We polled 625 likely voters in the June first special election to fill the open seat in Congress. At times in this race, Stephanie Herseth has held a double-digit lead over Larry Diedrich. But now he's closing the gap.

Our KELOLAND-TV/Argus Leader scientific poll shows 49% of likely voters would choose Democrat Stephanie Herseth. 40% would vote for Republican Larry Diedrich. 1% chose Libertarian Terry Begay, although he's not on the June first ballot. And 10% are still undecided. There's a four percent margin of error.

Stephanie Herseth says, "It's going to be a close race. We always knew it would tighten and it's nice to have the edge that we do. But we know it could narrow quickly if we don't keep working as hard as ever."

Jodi Schwan asks Larry Diedrich, "Are you close enough to win?"

Diedrich responds, "There's no doubt in my mind. We are actually farther ahead than we expected to be at this time."

So what's made the difference? Analysts point to Republicans come back to their base.

Analyst Amy Walter with the Cook Political Report says, "They didn't know who Larry Diedrich was. Now, they've seen him, his name ID is improved. He looks like a good, normal candidate. They don't have any fear in supporting him."

We also asked voters how they feel about the candidates. 47% feel positive about Herseth, while 42 percent feel positive about Diedrich. 7% still don't recognize him. The difference is that his positives have gone up, while hers have dropped ten percent over the last several months.

So even though Herseth has promoted her positive campaigning, analysts say the tone of the race doesn't necessarily influence how the voters perceive the candidates.

Walter says, "The fact that her positive ratings have dropped suggests that isn't so much of an issue with voters. The issue comes down to contrasts between the two candidates."

When you look at voters who are definitely casting a ballot on June 1, this race gets even closer.

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