Northern Plains News reports that Democrats Susan Wismer and Corinna Robinson have not moved their poll needles since July. Nielson Brothers Polling surveyed over 600 likely voters from September 21 to September 25 and found the races for Governor and House looking statistically identical to the results two months ago:

Nielson percentages July Sept
Daugaard 53 53
Wismer 29 28
Myers 7 10
undecided 12 9
Noem 54 55
Robinson 37 37
undecided 10 9

Evidently Wismer's takedown of Governor Daugaard at Dakotafest went unnoticed by the electorate. So has anything else she or Robinson has done during or since the August fair ramp-up of the campaign.

Independent gubernatorial candidate Mike Myers's climb to 10% could be noteworthy as his first post-primary double-digit polling. But the three-point climb from Nielsons' July poll is still within the margin of error, meaning we can read no momentum into the result.

Nielson Brothers Polling has been branded a Democratic-leaning polling firm. It is thus interesting (or disheartening, depending on your inclinations) to see that NBP consistently scores Wismer, Robinson, and their Senate field counterpart Rick Weiland lower than the Survey USA poll published earlier this month.

Meanwhile, in Iowa, the Jim Mowrer campaign is crowing about a transportation union poll that shows the Democrat just three points under his incumbent Republican wingnut opponent Rep. Steve King. Managing Mowrer's aspiring campaign is Ben Nesselhuf, who used to run the South Dakota Democratic Party.


Nielson Brothers Polling reinforces the growing belief that Mike Rounds is far from the bulletproof Senate candidate Republicans thought he would be. Their latest polling data finds that Rounds has dropped four points to 39%. Nielsons' finding joins Public Policy Polling (mid-August) and Survey USA (early September) in finding Rounds unable to break 40%. Even Rounds's own propaganda poll finds him at 41%.

Six out of ten South Dakotans want someone other than Mike Rounds to be Senator. The problem is, they are split on whom to pick. Rick Weiland still comes in second, but like Rounds, he has dropped four points from Nielsons' July poll, to 26%. Surging a monster ten points is Independent Larry Pressler, now at 24%. If two data points made a trend, Pressler could surge over 30% by Election Day... and Mike Rounds faces the embarrassing possibility of defeat at the hands not of a Democrat but a retired Independent with no money.

Nielson asks two important hypotheticals: What would happen if Pressler dropped out, and what would happen if Weiland dropped out. In a sock to the gut to Democrats, it appears Pressler would actually have the better chance of beating Rounds:

Nielson Brothers Polling hypotheticals, U.S. Senate race, September 2014

Graphics from Northern Plains News

Uff da: Pressler may be able to combine nostalgia and freedom of party brand into a threat that no one thought would be credible, let alone a direct threat to Mike Rounds's ascendancy.

By the way, Gordon Howie continues to be statistical noise, winning just 4% support. But in a race that could tighten, maybe it's time for Howie to invite Weiland and Pressler out for a conversation about how to achieve the one goal that unites them: beating Mike Rounds.


Just like the February version, the August Dakota Poll finds more young South Dakotan adults identifying themselves as conservative (42%) than liberal (23%). But theirs is a queer conservatism. Consider:

  • South Dakotans age 18 to 35 aren't interested in conserving the current two-party system: asked to rate how well "the two-party system is serving the needs of the American people" on a 1–10 scale, 53% give it a 4 or less; only 20% give it a 6 or better.
  • Young South Dakotans wouldn't conserve South Dakota's election system: 56% would like to adopt the Nebraska system—all legislative candidates from all parties go on the same ballot in June, and the top two vote-getters face off in November. Only 29% would oppose.
  • They don't read the Second Amendment as conservatively as the NRA and orange-clad candidates demand: 87% support "reasonable background checks on gun purchases" (that includes 82% of Republican respondents) and 53% say "Local governments should have the authority to ban guns from bars, parks, stores, and restaurants."
  • They aren't strict economic conservatives: as I reported Tuesday, they wouldn't just pass the $8.50 minimum wage on South Dakota's ballot; 56% of them would vote to raise the minimum wage to President Obama's favored $10.10.
  • They aren't strict Grover Norquist conservatives: 70% would raise our minimal teacher pay at least 20%, "even if it means slightly higher sales or property taxes. (A 20% increase would raise South Dakota's teacher pay from 51st in the nation to 41st. We'd still be 16% below the national average and $8,800 behind Minnesota.)
  • They aren't conservative with citizenship: 52% say they'd allow illegal immigrants to stay here and eventually apply for citizenship. Another 11% would let illegal immigrants stay but block citizenship. Only 29% would kick 'em out.
  • They aren't conservative about "family values": 55% say gay marriage should be legal, versus 29% who would keep South Dakota's ban. (But maybe that majority is family-value conservative, taking the position that government should not interfere in two willing adults' decision to make a commitment and raise a family.)
  • They are mixedly conservative on health insurance: almost three times as many respondents think they are worse off under the Affordable Care Act than think they are better off, though a strong 40% say the ACA makes no difference. But asked whether they prefer a mandate to buy private insurance or extending government-based health insurance like Medicare to everyone with income-based premiums, government wins 44% to 26%.

There may be conservatism afoot among the youngest generation of South Dakota voters, but it's not their parents' conservatism.


Larry Kurtz gets me reading this Wallet Hub ranking of the fairness of state tax systems. Wallet Hub asked 1,050 Americans to say what percentage (between 0 and 25) of income households in ten income brackets ought to pay in state and local taxes. Americans are progressive taxers: the ideal fair tax rates bubbling up from this survey rise from 2.5% for households making $5,000 a year to 16.36% for households making $2.5 million a year.

Wallet Hub then lined these survey figures up with actual state and local tax burdens calculated by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy for each state's five income quintiles. From these calculations, Wallet Hub offers this tax fairness map:



Montana comes out with the state and local tax system imposing burdens closest to the ideal rates found in Wallet Hub's survey. South Dakota, ranking 36th nationwide, has the least fair tax system in the region:

State Tax Fairness Rank Rank among Liberals Rank among Conservatives
Montana 1 1 1
Minnesota 7 6 11
North Dakota 15 16 10
Nebraska 23 24 26
Iowa 25 21 27
Wyoming 28 34 22
South Dakota 36 37 31

Wallet Hub breaks respondents by general ideology and finds conservatives and liberals give different ideal tax rates. Conservatives advocate higher tax rates than liberals for the lowest three income categories Wallet hub asked about and lower rates for the upper seven. But conservatives still favor consistently progressive tax rates. Conservatives and liberals rank Montana as the fairest state; conservatives and liberals alike place South Dakota in the bottom half for tax fairness.


One odd result I noticed in last week's Survey USA poll was the relatively low support for Initiated Measure 18, the minimum-wage increase, among young voters. Statistically minded reader Bill Fleming noted that young voters (the 18–34 set) made up only 16% of Survey USA's 510-voter sample. Poll about 80 voters, and you get a margin of error around 11%, not a bankable result.

Enter the Dakota Poll, which this week releases its second poll of young South Dakota adults' attitudes this year. Dakota Poll had Denver-based RBI Strategies and Research survey 401 South Dakotans aged 18 to 35 between August 20 and 24. Their margin of error is 4.89%, a clearer read of our rising generation's attitudes.

The Dakota Poll didn't ask about the minimum wage in its February poll. They posed that question this time and found results aligning with other poll results: Initiated Measure 18 will pass and pass big:

By a margin of 65% to 21%, young adults support raising the minimum wage in South Dakota from $7.25 to $8.50/hour. Even when asked if they would support a more extreme measure to raise the minimum wage to $10.10/hour, 56% of respondents said that they would support the raise while only 29% said they would oppose it. By a margin of 70% to 17%, young South Dakotans said they favored raising teacher salaries “by at least 20%” [Dakota Poll, press release, 2014.09.15].

The Dakota Poll links this concern about wages with an anxiety identified in both the February and August results:

These results reflect an overwhelming concern among young adults that “jobs, wages and opportunities” are the major reason why they would be forced to leave a state where they would otherwise like to build their lives (Q5-Q6).

...On broad themes of economic development results from the August, 2014 Dakota Poll were consistent with results from February, 2014. Young South Dakotans desire to stay in the state. 33% said that they considered “Family and friends” the primary reason to stay and build their lives in South Dakota. And yet, 54% listed the lack of access to “jobs/wages/opportunities” as the primary reason to leave the state. The next highest reason listed by respondents was “education” at 8% [Dakota Poll, 2014.09.15].

I'm reading the full Dakota Poll results and crosstabs this morning—stay tuned for more analysis on this slice of South Dakota's demographic pie.


As predicted, the SDGOP spin machine has reversed its embrace of the latest Survey USA poll on South Dakota's big political races.

On Tuesday, when Pat Powers thought the Survey USA Senate race results affirmed his snarky theses about Weiland being an awful candidate and heading for third place, he gleefully bruited the poll in multiple posts. He called the results fact and chortlingly concluded they meant the death of the Democratic Party.

But then Pat realized what the poll results really say:

  1. His man Mike Rounds is the awful candidate, the big-money erstwhile foregone conclusion who now can't buy his way past 40%.
  2. The Independent Larry Pressler, whom Powers mercilessly and classlessly mocks at every turn, has (in John Tsitrian's priceless words) managed to "stumble into factor-hood" and has a campaign on fire.
  3. Corinna Robinson and Angelia Schultz can poll within striking distance of their supposedly popular Republican counterparts without lifting a finger.
  4. And the biggest vote getter on the ballot will be Initiated Measure 18, the Democratic measure to raise South Dakota's minimum wage.

"Pretty soon Pat Powers is going to figure out that he shouldn't be crowing about the latest Survey USA poll," I wrote yesterday. "Expect some fake analysis from Pat any moment now explaining why we can't trust Survey USA."

Cue fake analysis:

I’ve reached the conclusion based on these wildly varying results that I’m not buying it. And I suspect Democrats are over represented in the poll.

Part of the problem is, according to its methodology, it’s a push button poll combined with Internet polling [Pat Powers, "Anyone Buying the Survey USA Polling Anymore?" Dakota War College, 2014.09.12].

Get Pat started on math, and things are bound to go wrong.

Sorry, Pat. Democrats were not over-represented. Look at the grey line at the bottom of each question's breakdown, showing "Composition of Likely Voters." Then call your pal and former patron Secretary of State Jason Gant to compare those numbers with South Dakota's voter registration totals as of September 2, the day before Survey USA started calling:

Survey USA Voter Reg
GOP 50% 47%
Dem 33% 34%
Indy 16% 19%

Survey USA over-represented Republicans, not Democrats. Survey USA under-represented Independents. A more representative sample would have put Rounds even lower and Weiland and Pressler even closer to pulling off the upset of the decade.

Pat expresses concern that Survey USA used online polling. Pat links to the wrong methodology page, which doesn't mention the Internet. The poll page itself explains the methodology better:

Cell-phone and home-phone respondents included in this research: SurveyUSA interviewed 775 South Dakota adults 09/03/14 through 09/07/14. Of the adults, 674 were registered to vote. Of the registered voters, 510 were determined by SurveyUSA to be likely to vote in the 11/04/14 general election. This research was conducted using blended sample, mixed mode. Respondents reachable on a home (landline) telephone (88% of likely voters) were interviewed on their home telephone in the recorded voice of a professional announcer. Respondents not reachable on a home telephone (12% of likely voters) were shown a questionnaire on their tablet, smartphone, or other electronic device [Survey USA, "In Solid Red South Dakota, Republican Rounds is Held to 39%...," 2014.09.12].

12% of respondents answered online. That 12%, accessed from lists purchased from various vendors, showed the same support for Weiland, two points less for Rounds, and three points less for Pressler than the landline respondents. Pat does not provide any analysis about why those results are less trustworthy. But I can tell you that 12% under-represents the number of South Dakotans who have no landline.

And if Pat is going to reject polls that combine online polling and phone-button responses, he's going to have to throw out all of his old posts trumpeting Rasmussen Reports. Read their methodology: they do pretty much the same thing, with robocalls augmented by a sample of landline abandoners with an "online survey tool."

I wonder if Pat's even trying any more. He doesn't offer analysis, just wishful thinking frosting his sponsors' press releases. Why bother, Pat?


Oh, those crazy kids—er, young voters age 18 to 34. The September 3–7 Survey USA poll finds South Dakota's youngest voters not doing what you might expect.

They aren't supporting Democrats, at least in any notably greater numbers than other age groups.

U.S. Senate All 18-34 35-49 50-64 65+ 18-49 50+
Mike Rounds (R) 39% 40% 43% 39% 35% 42% 37%
Rick Weiland (D) 28% 30% 14% 33% 32% 20% 33%
Larry Pressler (I) 25% 13% 34% 24% 26% 25% 25%
Gordon Howie (I) 3% 6% 1% 2% 2% 3% 2%
Undecided 5% 12% 7% 2% 4% 9% 3%


U.S. House All 18-34 35-49 50-64 65+ 18-49 50+
Kristi Noem (R) 53% 56% 55% 53% 51% 55% 52%
Corinna Robinson (D) 40% 36% 37% 42% 43% 36% 42%
Undecided 6% 8% 9% 5% 5% 8% 5%


S.D. Governor All 18-34 35-49 50-64 65+ 18-49 50+
Dennis Daugaard (R) 54% 52% 53% 55% 54% 52% 54%
Susan Wismer (D) 34% 33% 32% 37% 32% 33% 35%
Michael Myers (I) 6% 7% 7% 3% 9% 7% 6%
Undecided 7% 8% 8% 5% 6% 8% 6%

None of the Democrats enjoys an advantage among voters age 18–34. Dems' support among younger voters does not differ from their support among older voters by more than the margin of error, meaning you're as likely to spill your drink on a Weiland or Wismer voter at bingo night as you are at the Icon Lounge.

Perhaps those numbers support David Newquist's thesis that lots of young Democrats leave South Dakota, leaving behind a young cohort that votes pretty much like everyone else.

One twitch among the not quite as young as we used to be voters: check out the Weiland–Pressler numbers in the 35–49 set. That group tanks for Weiland, just 14%, but peaks for Pressler at 34%, better than the numbers Pressler scores in the over-50 crowd. Hmmm... we 35-to-49ers are the teenagers of the Reagan-Pressler years. Maybe we are more subject to nostalgia than we want to admit (Larry! Start playing the 80s mix tape at your campaign events! Journey! The Bangles!).

On the issues, the youngest voters place their highest priority on the economy/economic development.  At the state level, they are more interested in same-sex marriage than other age groups, but they give significantly less of a darn about Medicaid. Survey USA didn't ask about the importance of environmental issues in general, but the one specific environmental issue they mentioned, uranium mining in the Black Hills, hardly pinged on anyone's radar. Neither did EB-5—nertz!

The youngsters throw us one more curveball on the minimum wage:

IM18: Raise Minimum Wage  All 18-34 35-49 50-64 65+ 18-49 50+
Yes 61% 41% 59% 67% 66% 52% 66%
No 22% 41% 20% 17% 18% 29% 17%
Not Certain 18% 18% 21% 17% 16% 20% 16%

The conventional wisdom says that young people are more likely to make minimum wage and thus should be more likely to support an increase. But while IM 18 gets overwhelming support from the other three age groups, the 18–34 crowd is evenly split, 41% to 41%. It looks like we need to give these young voters some remedial classes in productivity and economic justice.


Survey USA releases the full results of its September 3–7 poll of the South Dakota political landscape. Unsurprisingly, it finds that Rep. Kristi Noem is beating her Democratic opponent Corinna Robinson, just as her Republican counterparts are winning the other races polled (Senate, Governor, and Secretary of State). But surprisingly, Robinson polls higher, 40%, than Democratic gubernatorial candidate Susan Wismer (34%) and Democratic Senate candidate Rick Weiland (28%).

Corinna Robinson, Democrat for U.S. House in South Dakota, 2014

Corinna wears cowboy hat, Corinna outscores Rick and Susan. Coincidence?

Part of Robinson's anomalous high (and that we can call 40% "high" deserves mockery from all of my Republican readers) comes from the absence of any third-party challengers from her race. Robinson can claim all of the anti-Noem votes, while Weiland has to share the majority who don't like Mike with the combusting Larry Pressler. Indy Mike Myers's drain a couple points of anti-Daugaard vote from Wismer's tally.

But the embarrassing fact is that among Robinson, Wismer, and Weiland, Robinson is mounting the weakest campaign (weaker debate performance, far less money raised than Weiland, less ambitious touring) yet has more people checking Democrat than either counterpart. Even among Democrats, Robinson is scoring highest, pulling 78% of the Dems surveyed compared with 65% sticking with Wismer and 56% sticking with Weiland. Democrats, seriously, do you ever reward performance?

When folks in the Weiland and Wismer war rooms can consider riding Corinna Robinson's coattails as a serious campaign strategy, something is seriously out of whack.


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