SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — One pre-election poll showed a close race while another showed a double-digit lead from the gubernatorial incumbent. Both predicted the winner accurately.
KELOLAND News partnered with Emerson College and The Hill to conduct a poll of 1,500 registered South Dakota voters in the weeks before the election. That poll showed Governor Kristi Noem winning her race 56-37. That was a much wider margin than the SDSU poll which predicted a close race of 45-41.
The final results were much closer to KELOLAND’s poll after the 2.4% margin of error was factored in with Noem winning 62-35.
“Polling is always fickle in the sense that you never quite know where the final tally is going to end up,” Alex Matson, communications director for Jamie Smith said via email. “Our internal polling was much closer to the SDSU polling at around that 5-7% mark. Unfortunately, that was inaccurate.”
In late October, the Smith campaign echoed a similar statement.
“So again, the polling that we saw there, we know this is an extremely tight race, we know the governor knows that this is an extremely tight race by the way that she’s acting and the things that she’s doing,” Smith said on October 26.
But the KELOLAND Poll would prove to be the more accurate one. Emerson Polling director Spencer Kimball said the methodology of the poll utilized landline and mobile calls as well as survey links via email. The SDSU Poll used this methodology as well, but the sample size was much less with 565 voters polled compared to 1,500 voters in KELOLAND’s Poll.
KELOLAND News also reached out to Governor Noem’s campaign and did not receive a response, but communications director Ian Fury was openly critical of the SDSU Poll on Twitter at the time of its release.
“(SDSU Poll) are a new polling entity with very little history and a TERRIBLE track record,” Fury tweeted on October 6.
Matson said that it was an “uphill battle” due to the difference in party registration.
According to voter registration totals on October 24, registered Democrats in the state totaled 151,029 while registered Independents and Republicans climbed to 144,106 and 294,977 respectively.
“I believe the number of registered Republicans in this state nearly doubles the number of Dem and Independent voters combined,” Matson said. “In regards to our race, I think it’s also a testament to the power of big money. It’s difficult to maintain the narrow margins you need to hold when your opponent spends over $5 million on D.C. attack ads.”
Both the SDSU and KELOLAND Poll forecasted much closer races on recreational marijuana and Medicaid expansion.
In both polls, results showed a close race with “no” on Initiated Measure 27 ultimately losing.
“This shows that the electorate may have shifted on the issue since approving a similar measure in 2020 and is bucking the national trend,” the SDSU Poll stated in their conclusion.
On Medicaid, the results were even closer on the “yes” votes with both polls being just a few points away from the final results. The “no” votes combined with the undecided voters in the polls come out close to the final total.
In the two other major statewide races, incumbent Senator John Thune and Representative Dusty Johnson out performed their forecasted wins by double digits.
The SDSU Poll found Thune and Johnson to be among the most well-liked politicians in the state and that proved accurate as Thune grabbed 70% of the vote and Johnson ended with 77%.