Republicans have significant leads in three races in South Dakota, according to a survey released by a Sioux Falls polling firm Friday.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney leads President Barack Obama 53.9 to 38.7 percent with 7.4 percent undecided, according to a release from Nielson Brothers Polling. Romney’s lead has increased since NBP’s July survey in which he led by 6 percent.
Republicans have carried South Dakota in every presidential race since 1968. In 2008, Republican candidate Sen. John McCain defeated Obama 53-45, with three other candidates taking the remaining 2 percent. South Dakota, as a traditionally Republican state with just three electoral votes, has not been a point of contention for the two major parties, neither of whom has campaigned here.
In the race for South Dakota’s sole House seat, Republican incumbent Kristi Noem opened a nearly 9 percent lead over her Democratic challenger, Matt Varilek. Noem leads 50.8 to 42.0 percent compared to her 47.4 to 45.6 percent advantage in July, according to NBP.
Noem, a freshman from Castlewood, defeated then-Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a Democrat, 48-46, with third-party candidate B. Thomas Marking garnering 6 percent.
In the race for one of two Public Utilities Commission seats, incumbent Republican Kristie Fiegen now leads Democrat Matt McGovern 47.0 percent to 36.5 percent with 16.5 percent undecided. Libertarian candidate Russ Clarke was not listed as having any support in the survey. In NBP’s July survey, Fiegen led by two points.
NBP did not poll on the other PUC race between incumbent Chris Nelson, a Republican, and his Democratic challenger, Nick Nemec.
Both Fiegen and Nelson were appointed to the PUC in 2011. Fiegen is seeking a full six-year term in her race with McGovern and Clarke, while Nelson and Nemec are vying for a four-year term.
“Through the national party conventions, South Dakota Republicans widened their leads in the major races,” Paul Nielson, president of Nielson Brothers Polling said. “Republican voters are now supporting their candidates more than the Democrats are supporting theirs. We saw a small swing back toward Democrats during their convention, but overall South Dakota Republican candidates appear to be consolidating their support and have added to their leads.”
Respondents were also asked to evaluate Obama’s job performance. Overall, 42.9 percent approve, with 25.8 percent saying they “strongly approve” and 17.1 percent saying they “somewhat approve.” Of the 57.1 percent who disapprove, 45.0 percent say they “strongly disapprove.”
The July NBP survey showed Obama’s approval rating to be at 45 percent.
The NBP survey shows Noem’s job approval to be 54.7 percent, with 28.6 percent saying they “somewhat approve” and 26.1 percent “strongly approve.” On the other hand, 25.7 percent of respondents say they “strongly disapprove” and 19.7 percent “somewhat disapprove.” NBP did not ask this question in its July poll.
NBP also asked whether respondents supported the Republican or Democratic state Senate candidate in their legislative district and 46.4 percent support the Republican candidate, 33.3 percent support the Democrat, while 20.4 percent remain undecided.
By comparison, in NBP’s July survey, 44.2 percent of likely voters chose the Republican, 34.8 percent chose the Democrat, and 21.1 percent were undecided.
NBP surveyed a random selection of likely South Dakota voters Aug. 29 through Sept. 6. The question on the presidential race drew 512 responses, with a 4.33 percent margin of error. The question on the US House race drew 509 responses, with a 4.34 percent margin of error. The question on the PUC race between Fiegen and McGovern drew 503 responses with a 4.37 percent margin of error.
Nielson Brothers Polling will release more findings from the survey, including questions on Initiated Measure 15 and economic confidence.