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SDSU Poll: Noem Leads Smith 45%–41%. Morning Consult: 57% Approve of Noem’s Performance.

Morning Consult gives Kristi Noem’s campaign a bit of data to push back against the SDSU Poll.

Professor David Wiltse has revised his calculations to show Noem leading Democratic candidate for Governor Jamie by one more percentage point than his preliminary report last week. According to Wiltse’s final calculations on 565 responses from registered South Dakota voters, incumbent Noem leads challenger Smith 45% to 41%. That’s still within the 4% margin of error, but Wiltse expects more of the undecideds to break toward Noem due to anti-Democratic sentiment.

Morning Consult adds relief to Noem’s surprisingly troubled campaign by finding she is the 17th-most popular governor in America:

If Kristi reads polls the way she reads economic data, she'll read Morning Consult and say, "I'm the strongest Governor in the nation!" Chart from Eli Yokley, "Whitmer's Approval Ticks Up in Michigan Ahead of MIdterms as Most Governors Continue to Earn Positive Reviews," Morning Consult, 2022.10.11.
If Kristi reads polls the way she reads economic data, she’ll read Morning Consult and say, “I’m the strongest Governor in the nation!” Chart from Eli Yokley, “Whitmer’s Approval Ticks Up in Michigan Ahead of MIdterms as Most Governors Continue to Earn Positive Reviews,” Morning Consult, 2022.10.11.

If 57% of South Dakotans approve of Noem’s job performance, then 57% of those undecideds should be able to default to, “Well, if she ain’t broke, don’t fix ‘er” on their ballot and lean toward Noem.

If Team Noem doesn’t want to completely discredit her alma mater’s polling acumen, they could use Wiltse’s data to undermine a key claim that Smith has made about his cross-partisan appeal. Smith says he can get Republicans to vote for him, and he got former Republican legislator Casey Murschel to publicly state that she’s voting for him. But Wiltse finds that only 7% of his Republican respondents are willing to say they’ll vote for Smith, compared with 3% of Democrats saying they’ll vote for Noem.

David Wiltse, "The Race for Governor Is Tighter Than Many Expected," SDSU Poll, 2022.10.11.
David Wiltse, “The Race for Governor Is Tighter Than Many Expected,” SDSU Poll, 2022.10.11.

Winning only 7% of the Republican vote isn’t going to put a Democrat into statewide office. Interestingly, Wiltse does not report preferences among independents, but given the above minimal partisan splits, Smith would have to win 79% of the independent vote (assuming they all show up proportionate to their current registration totals) to beat Noem.


  1. O 2022-10-12

    Just straight popularity polling? We don’t even pretend to break down into issues anymore?

  2. P. Aitch 2022-10-12

    Thanks again, Cory for turning me on to, many cycles ago. (I bought Herschel @ $0.58. He’s now down to forty cents.)
    Your Governor’s election isn’t yet on the board. No interest, I suppose.

  3. sx123 2022-10-12

    Noem getting re-elected is no sure thing. She has to be a bit nervous about this.

  4. larry kurtz 2022-10-12

    It looks like the undecided voters are mostly unaffiliated but are they even likely voters?

  5. Arlo Blundt 2022-10-12

    Smith has a real chance because all Noem is selling is more of the same. Her campaign consists of media buys and visits to Chambers of Commerce and Kiwanis Clubs. She polled 53% her first time around and I see no groundswell of enthusiasm welling up for her. She could get 75% of the West River vote and will need it. If she does win, she may shatter all known records for egomania in her second term.

  6. Bonnie B Fairbank 2022-10-12

    Strangely enough, I’ve only seen two Noem election signs. I can’t tell if the locals are apathetic, unaware of the impending election, poorly informed, or just stoopid. I know they don’t read, unless it has something to do with high school football.

    If a person mentions “issues” they think you’re talking about Kleenex.

  7. Mark Anderson 2022-10-12

    They like “killer” Kristi who did nothing to prevent people dying of Covid. The young Republicans got their inheritance early, so their happy. It’s a wash. In my state the death rate was 76 percent Republicans over Democrats. It’s election deniers, vaccine deniers, what can you say? Pure stupidity in action.

  8. P. Aitch 2022-10-12

    @ Mark Anderson – did Ian do damage near your home? My kids moved to Holiday (north of Tampa) last summer and my scheduled three-week trip to there got cancelled due to the storm. Making plans during hurricane season is like that. None of my other family members in Central Fla had and problems, either.

  9. Mark Anderson 2022-10-13

    Well P. Aitch, our house was fine with a little damage. The pool cage bought it, 7 big trees bought it, one 200 years old. It’s alot brighter now. We pick up for two hours every morning. This great person of Hispanic persuasion saw us cutting down a small tipped over tree and took pity on us and in five hours removed all the big stuff with his crew of 7. We fed them well while they were working. Got a great price, really wonderful people. We live on two acres which I used to say to my wife, now I still say that after every storm with a different meaning. The pool will need fixing, the cage too.
    We left the day before and went to St. Augustine, took 8 hours to get there, rained the entire way. When we got there they have had an evacuation notice but our hotel said we could stay. We stayed for five days came back and were still without power. Took two more days. The storm was enormous. Covered the entire state. Welcome to paradise.

  10. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-10-13

    Bonnie, I wish all the Noem supporters would get all wrapped up in high school football and forget to go to the polls.

  11. Guy 2022-10-13

    I think it will come down to GEOGRAPHY like it did in the 2018 Sutton – Noem Race. It appears to me that the Smith Campaign has been targeting the same counties that went for Sutton. The SDSU Poll shows that the breakdown between 2018 and what is shaping up in 2022 is very similar. Smith also knows he just needs to overcome the slim 11,000 vote gap that separated Sutton from Noem. If Smith wins it will be East River South Dakota that makes him our next Governor. Jamie just needs to slightly increase his wins from Sutton in the most populated counties of East River plus the Reservation counties: Minnehaha County (Sioux Falls), Brown County (Aberdeen), Clay County (Vermillion), Codington County (Watertown), and Brookings County (Brookings). I’ve noticed Jamie Smith is doing a lot of campaigning in those key counties. He has also come over to West River to campaign mainly in Pennington County (Rapid City) and Lawrence County (Spearfish). Smith just needs to slightly make these 2 counties pink to gain enough voters to add to the East River and Native American counties to win the race. The one thing I see lacking in blog and media coverage is reporting about the GEOGRAPHY and how the campaigns are doing in the key counties across the state. Politics is won by GEOGRAPHY and knowing where to target your campaign and gain the votes you need. Sutton knew this and came close and Smith appears to have learned quickly.

  12. Guy 2022-10-13

    The KEY for Jamie Smith is to increase support for his campaign among Independent, Democrat and disenfranchised Republican voters in the most populated East River Counties of: Minnehaha, Brown, Clay, Codington, and Brookings. Smith & Democrats also need to continue to get out the vote with YOUNGER Independent, Democrat and disenfranchised Republican voters in the largest cities of: Sioux Falls, Aberdeen, Vermillion, Watertown and Brookings. I believe his campaign is doing all of that in addition to gaining more support among Native American voters. Jamie needs to continue to inspire younger voters much like Barrack Obama did in 2008. His key message that is resonating with younger voters in South Dakota are: protecting women’s reproductive rights, cutting the sales tax on groceries and legislation to legalize recreational marijuana. Two of those three issues: reproductive rights and groceries also resonates with a majority of middle aged voters. As for West River, Jamie has a great chance of gaining even more voters in Rapid City and Spearfish, both cities do have an active and strong Independent voter base that is not enamored with the South Dakota Republican Party. I live out here and I can tell you that South Dakota has a growing contingent of progressive Independent voters in both Rapid City and Spearfish. He does not need to win Pennington and Lawrence County, he just needs to increase his wins from Sutton in these counties and may I remind everyone, that Pennington and Lawrence Counties were both a weak pink color in the 2018 race because Noem barely won them. I could see Smith gaining traction in those 2 West River counties and add that to his wins in the largest East River populated counties plus galvanize and unite Native American support behind his campaign to win the 2022 race.

  13. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-10-14

    Smith’s winning strategy shouldn’t be hard: keep all the Sutton voters, the faithful Dems and the GOPers and indies who disliked Noem enough to abandon the R label; then win 12,000 voters who sat on the fence or went with the R habit in 2018 but who now can be persuaded by Noem’s demonstrated poor performance in office that South Dakota needs an actual governor, not a TV star and coast-to-coast traveler.

  14. mike from iowa 2022-10-14

    My fondest wish is that pollsters be more specific when seeking opinions of job performance of magat pols. 57% of respondees approve of Noem’s job performance? As what? A frequent flyer or more frequent liar? Are they thrilled to the marrow when her highness decides to pay South Duhkota a rare visit every now and then?

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