When troublemakers bought billboards in July 2021 stating that more South Dakotans voted for marijuana than for Kristi Noem, I noted that the comparison is a somewhat appley-orangey: comparing votes from different years, mid-terms versus Presidential elections, with different voters and different turnouts, doesn’t produce as reliable a gauge of public sentiment as comparing vote totals in one election, on candidates and issues on the same ballot.
The 2022 election put the old 2021 billboard to bed. Kristi Noem is far more popular among South Dakota voters than marijuana. 217,035 South Dakotans said they want Kristi Noem to govern for four more years, while only 163,584 South Dakotans said they want recreational marijuana to be legal. Noem got 53,451 more votes, 32.7% more, than Initiated Measure 27.
Also more popular than marijuana is Medicaid. 192,057 South Dakotans voted for Amendment D to expand Medicaid. That’s 28,473 more votes, 17.4%, than the yeas on IM 27.
Conservative Kristi Noem was more popular in this election than either of the liberal ballot initiatives that she opposed. However, she should keep in mind (and the rest of us should keep in mind) that both measures received tens of thousands more votes than did Noem’s opponents in the gubernatorial race. 133,310 people voted for someone other than Noem for Governor. Thus, it is possible that around 30,000 people who voted for Noem also voted to legalize pot, and around 59,000 people who voted for Noem voted to expand Medicaid.
Kristi Noem may be more popular than Medicaid and marijuana, but she’s still far from the most popular Republican in the state. Despite the fact that the gubernatorial contest drew more voters (350,165) than any other race or ballot question in the 2022 general election, Noem won only the sixth-highest number of votes among the nine Republicans on the statewide ballot. Her winning percentage of 61.98% was the lowest in all nine statewide races. Congressman Dusty Johnson, Senator John Thune, Public Utilities Commissioner Chris Nelson, and even Treasurer Josh Haeder all got more votes than Noem. Dusty Johnson won the highest vote percentage for a contested statewide candidate, 77.42%.
Even Marty Jackley, who had no opponent for Attorney General, got more people to bother to mark his name than could be persuaded to vote for Kristi Noem.
|Candidate||Votes for||Votes in race||% of vote|
|average sans Jackley||224,300||333,651||67.23%|
In both raw number of votes and percentage of the vote, Kristi Noem drew below-average support compared to her fellow statewide Republican candidates.
Republican dissatisfaction with Kristi Noem was not enough to keep Noem from winning reëlection. But Noem continues to put off a noticeable number of voters who otherwise embrace the R brand up and down the ballot.