We’re all prone to pay special attention to things that prop up our worldview and ignore the things that challenge it.
Pat Powers, for instance, regularly blogs about the Morning Consult polls that identify the approval/disapproval ratings of United States Senators. Our senior Senator, John Thune, regularly makes the top ten in Senate approval ratings, and Powers, whose blog is sponsored by Thune, is always eager to point out Thune’s apparent likeability. In 2019 Q4, Big John was at 52% approval, 35% disapproval (with 13% of South Dakotans too lazy to bother forming an opinion). Ignored by Powers in his “coverage” is that that’s Thune’s lowest approval rating and smallest like/dislike gap in Morning Consult’s data back to Q1 2017.
Morning Consult also takes approval ratings on governors. Their latest polling finds that Governor Kristi Noem is the sixth least popular governor in the country, with 43% approval and 45% disapproval. Our first-term governor is one of only seven governors in the country with more voters disapproving than approving.
Dennis Daugaard wrapped up his gubernatoriat with a 58%/26% rating, the seventh-best in the nation at the time. Noem inspired less confidence the moment she took the reins, polling at 49%/32% in 2019 Q1, and has slid downward since:
Pat Powers has not yet reported on this data from Morning Consult. He may stop reporting Morning Consult data altogether, since Governor Noem, who also pays Powers to blog, has responded by declaring DC pollsters unreliable:
Noem’s spokeswoman responded with a written statement.
“The 2016 election showed us the soundness of D.C. pollsters,” the statement said. “With just a year under her belt, Governor Noem has accomplished a lot on behalf of hardworking South Dakotans. As she outlined in her State of the State address, she is looking forward to building on that success in 2020.”
The comment about the “soundness of D.C. pollsters” is a sarcastic take on polls that showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump [Seth Tupper, “Poll: More Disapprove of Noem Than Approve,” SDPB, 2020.01.17].
Professor Jon Schaff doesn’t dismiss the poll numbers. He tells SDPB’s Seth Tupper that they reflect Noem’s “unforced errors” (pause a moment: can anyone cite examples of when Kristi Noem has be forced to commit an error?):
He said those errors include her widely mocked “We’re On It” advertising campaign to raise awareness about methamphetamine use; her veto of a hemp legalization bill that many lawmakers in her own party supported; and a raise she gave to her daughter, who is on the governor’s staff [Tupper, 2020.01.17].
South Dakota Standard’s Janette McIntyre adds the most recent error, Noem’s skipping the second day of Session for a selfie-jaunt to Washington, to the pile of reasons Noem could be vulnerable to a 2022 challenge.
Yet with, I assume, none of the sarcasm of Noem’s spokesperson, Schaff calls Noem “a very talented politician.” I beg to differ: a very talented politician would not commit the errors that Schaff lists. A talented politician would not in one year flip the public’s approve/disapprove gap for the governor from +32 to –2.
Maybe it takes talent for a Republican to win a 43% approval rating in South Dakota, where Republicans make up 47% of the electorate compared to the Democrats’ 28%. But that’s not the kind of talent I want on my team.
But hey, if Kristi Noem sponsored my blog, maybe I’d find a way to ignore that talent and just keep cherry-picking the poll numbers that keep my sponsors happy. Because who needs a worldview when one can focus instead on the far simpler matter of profits, right, Pat?