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Did The SDSU Poll get the governor's race wrong?

Gov. Kristi Noem delivers her victory speech in Sioux Falls after winning reelection on Nov. 8, 2022.
Lee Strubinger
Gov. Kristi Noem delivers her victory speech in Sioux Falls after winning reelection on Nov. 8, 2022.

The interview posted above is from SDPB's daily public affairs show, In the Moment with Lori Walsh.

On October 11, 2022, The SDSU Poll released research that indicated Kristi Noem held a 4% lead over challenger Jamie Smith in the race for governor. Noem would go on to win the election 62% to Smith's 35%.

Did The SDSU Poll get the research wrong?

"Not really," says David Wiltse, Ph.D., director of The SDSU Poll. "The timing is really important on this. If we were one of those groups that just wanted to predict the election, we would have done this (research) mid-October, not late September."

The SDSU Poll's data on the tight governor's race indicated 14% of the survey sample was undecided at the time of the survey. Wiltse says it is typical for people to converge back to their party's nominees in the final weeks before Election Day.

"That's where the messaging really starts to come out," Wiltse says. "They're reminded they're Republicans. They're reminded they're Democrats. Those hesitations they might have had can begin to disappear."

Wiltse also says negative partisanship has a strong influence on voters in an election cycle's final days.

"When I ask somebody in September, 'Who are you voting for?' they can say whomever they want. There's no consequence to it; there's no cost," Wiltse says. "But when the time comes for them to cast their ballot, it's psychologically very difficult for you to say anyone from that other party because, quite literally, your hatred of them is stronger than the like you have for your own guy. That's going to wash out the possibility that they're actually going to cross over and vote for the other candidate."

Wiltse says the timing of the SDSU Poll's research into the governor's race helped reveal how factions in the Republican party felt about their preferred candidates before voters were asked to choose their next political leaders.

Noem's office has yet to respond to a request for comment.

Lori Walsh is the host and senior producer of In the Moment.