The Sioux Falls Optimist Club must be the nation's leading chapter. An extensive Gallup survey finds Sioux Falls is the most optimistic city in the country. Specifically, Gallup asked folks if they feel the city in which they live is "getting better". 77.7% (a lucky number!) of Sioux Falls respondents said, "You betcha!"

Here are the ten most optimistic and most pessimistic cities Gallup identifies:

Gallup-Optimistic Cities 2012-2013

Nobody from Minnesota in the top ten! Join me and Joel Rosenthal in saying whoo-hoo, Sioux Falls!

Of course, our neighbors in the Twin Cities could contend they don't need to worry about whether their town is getting better, because they are already plenty satisfied. The Gallup data show Prince's people ranking 17th in metro-satisfaction, while Sioux Falls ranks 36th. The percentages are 91 and 89.4, respectively, so in a hundred random conversations, you'll only find one or two more cranky people dissing their town at the Empire Mall than at the Mall of America.


In October 2010, RMA Research of Sioux Falls released a poll stating that Scott Heidepriem was within six percentage points of Dennis Daugaard in the gubernatorial race. Heidepriem was not.

Yesterday, RMA Research released a poll stating that Corinna Robinson is nineteen percentage points behind Rep. Kristi Noem (43% to 24%) in the race for South Dakota's lone House seat. RMA also contends that if you tell the right stories and ask the right questions, you can get likely voters to favor Robinson over Noem by eight points (44% to 36%).

Pay close attention, Robinson rooters: these optimistic numbers don't say Robinson is winning; they say she can win, if she can get people to know her (only 17% of the 302 telephoned respondents said they are familiar with Robinson) and dim Noem's horsey-girl image with facts about her rotten record. Here's how RMA drove that Robinson shift:

  • Give voters biographies of both candidates. 82% of respondents found Robinson's résumé makes her an appealing candidate. 61% said the same of Noem's CV.
  • Talk about Noem's votes. RMA told voters Rep. Noem voted "to shut down the government in 2013, ...[voted] no on a farm bill and...  [voted] to cut Social Security and Medicare by 25%." 57% said those issues made them less likely to vote to re-elect our Congresswoman.

Like the hopeful Heidepriem poll in 2010, RMA's finding doesn't tell Robinson is ahead; it tells her what she could do to get ahead. Follow Whirlwind Weiland around the state, tell everyone she meets about her own service in the military and Rep. Noem's lack of achievement in Congress, and land some big donors to put that message in every newspaper, on every radio station, and in every commercial break on the Big News at 6.


Senator John Thune thinks that 65% of Americans want the Keystone XL pipeline. Maybe 65% of Americans say that, but that "support" may signal that they don't understand the real effects the pipeline would have.

Consider this subsequent poll that finds that 77% of Americans support restrictions on oil exports if those restrictions help keep domestic gasoline prices down. The absence of Keystone XL is a significant practical export restriction. As we've discussed here numerous times, TransCanada's business case for Keystone XL is to make more money by clearing the North American glut, pushing its oil out to China and other global bidders, and raising our gasoline prices here in America.

People who support Keystone XL may operating, like Rep. Kristi Noem, under the hopeful assumption that a new pipeline means new oil for us and cheaper prices at the pump. But TransCanada's last big pipeline project produced no such result.

You and I don't stand to benefit from the Keystone XL pipeline. But the Koch Brothers do:

The biggest lease owner in Canada's oil sands isn't one of the well-known international oil giants. It's a subsidiary of Koch Industries, the privately owned cornerstone of the fortune of conservative Koch brothers Charles and David.

The Koch Industries subsidiary holds leases on 1.1 million acres — an area nearly the size of Delaware — in the oil sands region of Alberta, Canada, according to an activist group that studied Alberta provincial records.

...[T]he International Forum on Globalization... is arguing that Koch will benefit indirectly. The IFG contends that the Keystone XL pipeline will create competition among rail and other pipelines and lower transportation costs for all oil sands producers, bolstering profit margins and making additional reserves economically viable [Steven Mufson and Juliet Elperin, "Koch Brothers' Quiet Play: Oil Sands," Lincoln Journal-Star, 2014.03.22].

Once again, Senator John Thune and the Republican Party put the interests of Big Oil over the economic and environmental interests of South Dakotans. Thanks, John!


Alas, South Dakota's youngest voting generation knows who can butter its political bread. Amid reports that the national youth vote is leaning strongly liberal/progressive/Democrat, Sam Hurst publishes a new Dakota Poll that finds our young voters offering Jensenesque regressivism safe harbor in South Dakota for at least another generation.

The February phone survey of 400 South Dakotans ages 18 to 35 finds the following political self-identifications:

43% describe themselves as “very conservative (13%), somewhat conservative (20%), or leaning conservative (10%)”; nearly twice as many as the 24% who describe themselves as “very liberal (6%), somewhat liberal (11%), or leaning liberal (7%).” 23% of South Dakotans describe themselves as moderates.

In terms of political partisanship, 33% describe themselves as Republicans. 21% describe themselves as “supporters of the Tea Party”. 22% describe themselves as Democrats. 20% describe themselves as Independents [Sam Hurst, "March 2014 South Dakota Youth Poll," Dakota Poll, 2014.03.19].

These young conservatives aren't going anywhere, either. 48% say they've lived here all there lives; 83% said they went to high school here. 54% say it is extremely likely they will be living in South Dakota five years from now; only 6% say it is extremely unlikely that they will stay... which one would expect of conservatives who don't like change. This result does not mean that young people are not leaving the state; it just means that the more mobile young South Dakotans had already emigrated before Dakota Poll called.

The young survey respondents offer a reasonably conventional perception of what makes their generation choose to leave or stay:

Top reasons young people leave Top reasons young people stay
Work/Job Opportunties 48% Raise a Family/Values 26%
Warmer/Better Weather 22% Work/Job Opportunities 21%
Better Pay 20% Low Population/Small Communities 20%
Better Schools 15% Family/Friends 19%
Entertainment/Culture Leisure/Shopping 15% Low Crime/Safety 17%

Note that over twice as many respondents say job opportunities motivate people to leave South Dakota than motivate people to stay. In an interesting contrast, the leave reasons seem much more rationally capitalist than the stay reasons. Does that mean this young conservative generation will be much more family-values conservatives than free-market conservatives?

On social issues, these conservative-leaning millennials aren't all predictably conservative. The 20% who want a complete ban on abortion only slightly outnumber the 18% who want abortion legal in all circumstances. 26% want abortion legal with some restrictions. That's 44% who could show up at the polls and mostly defend women's reproductive rights. We can then fight off the anti-abortion majority by splitting them on exceptions: 25% want to allow abortion only in cases of rape, incest, or risk to the life of the mother; 9% would remove exceptions for rape and incest.

Get away from the political labels, and other issues may offer Democrats more chances to find common ground with this seemingly conservative generation. 72% say they are willing to make significant sacrifice to raise teacher pay in South Dakota. 56% say raising teacher pay would improve the quality of our schools... which suggests that the other 16% either enjoy throwing money away or believe that we have a moral obligation to pay teachers what they deserve for the good work they are already doing.

58% of respondents are making less than $35,000 a year. The poll didn't ask about the minimum wage, but combine those lower incomes with the recognition above that job opportunities may be better outside South Dakota, and these young voters may be more willing to support increasing wages and/or decreasing the tax burden that lower income folks face under our regressive sales tax.

Then again, this group isn't terribly tuned in to workers rights. 51% say they would make little or no sacrifice to support workers rights like organizing unions. The only social issue polled getting a stronger negative reaction was reducing carbon emissions to combat climate change (52% not feeling sacrificial).

In another bad sign, this 85% white generation has trouble seeing their kinship with the other. 67% say they would make significant personal sacrifice to help fight poverty in South Dakota. Only 49% say they would make similar sacrifice to fight poverty on Indian reservations.

The Dakota Poll results show what every Democratic door-knocker and campus organizer in South Dakota already knows: we can't count on the rising youth tide to float our liberal South Dakota boats. We lose a big chunk of future Democratic activists to the bright lights of big cities and other less conservative places where the fight for the Left isn't as hard a fight. Those who stay are naturally more conservative, meaning we liberals have to work extra hard to cut through their prejudices, find common ground on issues like fair teacher pay, and build on that common ground to expand their generosity to include more of their fellow South Dakotans.


The latest Madville Times poll took an  early snapshot of online support for the five candidates for Madison City Commission. The 191 votes cast (thank you, eager readers!) over the last couple days show a tight race for the two open seats:

candidate votes %
Ashley Allen 40 13%
Jeremiah Corbin 63 21%
Gene Hexom 64 22%
Kelly Johnson 63 21%
Jennifer Wolff 67 23%

With the standard online margin of error just slightly larger than the city's debt load, we see four of the five candidates in an early tie. Former mayor Gene Hexom and former school board member Kelly Johnson appear evenly matched with political newcomers Jennifer Wolff and Jeremiah Corbin.

All five candidates were tied during the first 24 hours of voting. Yesterday, Ashley Allen's support hit a strange plateau. Allen's fifth-place finish seems anomalous given that of the five candidates, he has commented most frequently on this blog. Has blog familiarity bred contempt among Madville Times readers?

Compare that to Hexom's strong showing among blog readers who have heard me regularly denigrate Hexom's blindered and brittle rein over Madison. That Hexom could come out ahead of Allen in a poll on this blog suggests that Madville Times readers are far from a mere reflection of the author's views.

For some real fun, let's look at how voters' first and second picks align:

Second Vote
First Vote  Ashley Allen  Gene Hexom  Jennifer Wolff  Jeremiah Corbin  Kelly Johnson (blank) First vote total
Ashley Allen 4 6 3 4 15 32
Gene Hexom 2 3 4 15 6 30
Jennifer Wolff 3 3 7 1 37 51
Jeremiah Corbin 2 13 5 5 15 40
Kelly Johnson 1 14 2 9 12 38
Second vote total 8 34 16 23 25 85

The strongest synergy between candidates is between the former officeholders, Hexom and Johnson. 15 of the folks who picked Hexom first picked Johnson second; 14 of the folks who picked Johnson first picked Hexom second.

Jennifer Wolff appears to have the strongest contingent of single-candidate voters. 55% of the folks who voted for Wolff did not pick a second candidate. Only 9% of Hexom's voters declined to check a second candidate. Let's step on some really thin speculative ice: does this suggest Wolff has some unique appeal? Is there a contingent of voters determined to return a female voice to the city commission?

We could flip that number on its head and suggest a challenge for Wolff and Allen: they have the lowest crossover appeal (45% and 63%, respectively), the ability to draw voters who mark a second box. Hexom and Johnson have the most crossover appeal (91% and 81%).

One more note: when we talk about state House races, we often hear that the goal in those two-slot races is to be everyone's second choice. This city commission poll may support that adage. Hexom is the only candidate who got more than half of his votes from people who clicked his name second. And sure enough, he came in second overall, by one vote.

The Madison city election is April 8: stay tuned for more exciting local politics!


The petitions are in, and Madison has five candidates for two seats on the Madison City Commission. Neither of the incumbents, Dick Ericsson and Scott Delzer, chose to run again, so Madison's five choices are all fresh faces (well, sort of):

So it's poll time: interested Madison readers, who do you think would do the best job steering Madison into the future? Vote now right here on the blog in the right sidebar. Remember, you can pick two!

Poll runs until Friday breakfast time, when we'll discuss the results.

By the way, city commission is a non-partisan race, but I'm hearing from my Madison neighbors that all five candidates in this race are Democrats. Imagine that! The GOP must be saving up its ammo for county offices (Pedersen, Wollman, Giles...).


Democrats trailing Republicans in South Dakota? That's not news. Rounds over Weiland, says Rasmussen Reports, and Daugaard over Lowe? No sh...

Wait a minute. Daugaard over Lowe? What about Wismer?

Rasmussen doesn't mention Wismer, but its gubernatorial report includes one word that is news: likely.

Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard holds a three-to-one lead over his likely Democratic challenger in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at the 2014 gubernatorial race in South Dakota [emphasis mine; "Election 2014: South Dakota Governor," Rasmussen Reports, 2014.02.28].

Joe Lowe is the likely Democratic challenger? Rasmussen couldn't be making that call on the basis of the latest Madville Times poll; they composed their poll questions before my poll came out. Rasmussen chose to ask only about Lowe, not Wismer.

I suppose it's entirely possible that an out-of-state polling firm might not know who all is running for governor in South Dakota. Heck, there are probably a lot of South Dakotans who couldn't name any of the candidates (quick, don't look: name all six announced candidates!).

It seems unlikely that Rasmussen would have any intelligence on this race that isn't obvious to South Dakotans. Lowe has the current advantage of working the state and firing up crowds while Legislature- and tax-bound Wismer is stuck sending surrogates to stump, but Lowe appears to have some favor with the party.

It's the weekend, friends: speculate at will! What's Rasmussen thinking?


The latest Madville Times poll asked you who South Dakota Democrats' best choice is for governor. From Tuesday through breakfast this morning, you responded and gave Rapid City businessman and former state fire chief Joe Lowe a big edge over Britton legislator and tax preparer Susan Wismer:

Candidate Votes Percent
Joe Lowe 190 63%
Susan Wismer 83 28%
someone else 27 9%

300 readers responded (a pretty good crowd for a Madville Times poll). Acknowledging a standard online margin of error just slightly larger the stack of tax returns awaiting Rep. Wismer's attention on her desk back in Britton, we may still conclude from this data that Lowe has a strong early lead among the attentive and activist political readers of the South Dakota blogosphere.

One might not expect Lowe to enjoy such a lead. Wismer is a veteran SDDP player and veteran lawmaker. She's enjoyed good press here for her strong statements against the Republican regime. Lowe is a newcomer to Democratic politics in South Dakota. But Lowe announced two months before Wismer, and he is traveling the state and working audiences and petitions with more personal vigor than Wismer, who is currently occupied with the Legislative session and says she will wait until she has finished preparing her clients' taxes to get serious about campaigning. Readers here seem to appreciate a candidate who shows early fire and recognizes that beating a Republican governor from South Dakota requires 100% effort from day one.

But don't get cocky, Joe. Readers here can also be flat wrong. We are the same crowd who, a couple weeks before the last primary, had Jeff Barth running neck-and-neck with Matt Varilek, even before Barth published the greatest South Dakota political video of 2012 (maybe ever). Party favorite Varilek proceeded to crush Barth 72% to 28%.

Right or wishful, political blog readers are definitely a discontented lot. Yet the Lowe-Wismer poll showed only marginal discontent with the two gubernatorial choices before us. 9% of voters asked for someone else to run. Here are the write-ins moved and seconded:

Answer Votes
Stephanie Herseth Sandlin 5.5
Bernie Hunhoff 5
Cory Heidelberger 3
Mike Huether 2
Mike Myers 2

Herseth Sandlin's 0.5 comes from one voter who asked for either her or Brendan Johnson, but no one else mentioned Johnson, suggesting most of us are content to see the U.S. Attorney investigating and prosecuting human trafficking and the GOED/EB-5 scandal.

Stay tuned for more blog poll fun as the primary approaches!


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