The SD Governor’s race is close according to SDSU poll

According to a study conducted by The SDSU Poll, a non-partisan research group at the School of American and Global Studies at South Dakota State University, Kristi Noem leads Jamie Smith in the race for governor by only 4% among likely registered voters.

The poll asked 565 voters questions about the upcoming election. The margin of error on the survey was 4%, which is in-line with other state-wide polls.

The Results

45% of voters said that they prefer Kristi Noem, while 41% said that they prefer Jamie Smith, the poll said. 14% of voters are undecided.

Gov Race AllWith the margin of error on the poll just as wide as the gap between the candidates, this is a very close result.

However, according to the study, it can be expected that “a majority of these undecided respondents will break toward the governor come election time when ‘not sure’ isn’t a choice.”

This comes in large part due to the “structure of partisanship” in South Dakota, the study said. According to the South Dakota Secretary of State’s website, the number of registered Republicans is nearly double that of registered Democrats in South Dakota.


The majority of voters registered for either of the two major political parties intend to vote for the candidate of their party. However, Democrats are significantly more unified.

7% of registered Republicans said that they intend to vote for Jamie Smith, while only 3% of Democrats intend to vote for Kristi Noem.

The trend is the same in undecided voters, with 13% of Republicans, and 6% of Democrats being undecided.

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“The behavior of the undecided voters is key, and again we believe that most will break towards their own party, thus giving the governor an edge amongst undecided voters,” the study said.


The results show a very different picture among independents, with 47% favoring Jamie Smith, 30% favoring Kristi Noem, and 23% remaining undecided. However, the director of the poll warns to take this with a grain of salt:

“There’s this kind of mythology out there about the magic of independents, and that the candidate who wins the independents wins the election. That’s bunk.” Dr. David Wiltse, associate professor of political science and director of the SDSU Poll, said. “It’s good to win independents, no question, but it’s not always the key to victory.”

Additionally, Wiltse added that the majority of the undecided independents will likely side with Kristi Noem.

“Most independents are not independent. They have decided leanings, and they usually stick to those leanings. Here, I think the bigger chunk of those undecided independents will break the governor’s way,” Wiltse said.

The Gender Gap

13% more women said that they preferred Jamie Smith than men, with 13% more men favoring Kristi Noem. Undecided voters were evenly split between genders.

The study authors suspect that this is an issue of party, rather than the candidates themselves:

“A virtually identical gender gap exists in the Thune-Bengs Senate race. This suggests that the gap is due to the Republican Party’s weakness amongst women, rather than a trait of any particular candidate.”

Gov Race Gender

The SDSU Poll will release their polling results on abortion, ballot measures, and other state and local candidates later this week.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News