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Poll shows Republican incumbents leading, but Thune lacking majority support

Jackie Hendry
U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-South Dakota.

A new poll shows U.S. Senator John Thune lacking majority support among Republican voters, although he still has a comfortable lead in a three-way primary race.

Thune is attempting to become the second South Dakotan to win a fourth term in the Senate.

The poll was conducted by a research group housed in the School of American and Global Studies at South Dakota State University. Nearly 1,200 likely voters answered questions about current issues and the June 7 Republican Party primary elections. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. It finds majority support for Governor Kristi Noem and U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson in their re-election bids.

The poll finds 46 percent support for Thune and a nearly equal percentage of voters unsure of their primary preference, while neither of his challengers are above 10 percent. That contrasts with a recent Morning Consult poll that finds Thune as America’s most popular senator.

David Wiltse, an SDSU political science professor, helped conduct the poll. He says the results show discontent with Thune. However, the pollsters suspect a vast majority of undecided Republican voters will ultimately support Thune.

“I’d be pretty surprised if any of these incumbents, especially the governor, were to get knocked off from the right,” Wiltse says.

The poll also finds that 70 percent of registered Republican voters think Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg should get removed from office.

Ravnsborg was impeached in April for crimes that led to the death of a pedestrian in a traffic accident, and for malfeasance in office. The House found Ravnsborg used his office to benefit himself in the investigation into the matter.

Wiltse says most South Dakotans see the case as politicians acting with impunity.

“This guy just embodied it in his public reaction to it,” Wiltse says. “I would be stunned if he survives this. I can’t imagine the Republican Party would re-nominate him.”

A Senate impeachment trial is set for June 21 and 22. Meanwhile, the SDSU poll shows Republican former Attorney General Marty Jackley with about 60 percent support for his bid to reclaim the office.

Other voter sentiments will get released later this week, including thoughts on the conflict in Ukraine and transgender athlete participation in sports.

Lee Strubinger is SDPB’s Rapid City-based news and political reporter. A former reporter for Fort Lupton Press (CO) and Colorado Public Radio, Lee holds a master’s in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.