NBP finds Huether lead (updated)

Nielson Brothers Polling has released the second part of their Sioux Falls municipal poll, in which they show incumbent Mayor Mike Huether with a moderate 48-36 lead over challenger Greg Jamison.

I’m still waiting on the full question order and crosstabs from the poll, though it does raise an eyebrow that the poll appears to have asked respondents’ opinion about the direction of the city and the two candidates and city council before asking about the head-to-head matchup. Anything you ask respondents before a head-to-head question can influence how they’re thinking when the main question comes up.

Heuther, in the poll, has a slightly higher approval rating than Jamison (a lower-profile figure), but also higher disapproval. Subtracting “strongly disapprove” from “strongly approve,” Huether is +21 and Jamison is +17.

They also poll the at-large city council races, finding a dead heat in the Christine Erickson-Denny Pierson race, but a firm 34-20-7 lead for incumbent Rex Rolfing over Manny Steele and Emmett Reistroffer in the other at-large race — though both races had high levels of undecided voters.

NBP is still establishing its track record, so it’ll be interesting to see how this poll compares to the actual results.

The poll was conducted from March 18 to March 20, via automated push-button response, with between 500 and 600 registered voters responding to different questions.

UPDATE: Some very interesting tidbits in the crosstabs for the poll, which NBP gave me access to.

Here’s two, focusing on how voters break down by party affiliation and ideology.

NBP asked respondents whether they were a Democrat, Republican or an independent. Among Democrats, Huether (a Democrat) beats Jamison (a Republican) 61-27. Among Republicans, Jamison has a slender 44-40 lead. Huether leads among independents 42-32. (There were 238 Democrats, 251 Republicans and 80 independents.)

Respondents were also asked if they consider their ideas to be liberal (96 respondents), moderate (168), conservative (196), or aligned with the Tea Party (60). 

Among liberals, Huether leads 65-16. He also leads moderates 54-33. The decisive factor is Huether combining that with a 45-37 lead among conservatives. Only among Tea Partiers does Jamison lead, 56-29.

All of that shows why the poll showed a lead for Huether — if Jamison is running as a Republican candidate, he has to do better than a 4-point lead among Republican voters.

I also scrolled down to look at the at large council races for one more tidbit. Overall, Rex Rolfing has a huge lead in the At Large A race, with 34 percent to 20 percent for Manny Steele and 7 percent for Emmett Reistroffer. If you look at the crosstabs by ideology, Rolfing has big leads among moderates and liberals, and a narrow lead among conservatives. But Steele wins Tea Party voters 38-25 — about what you’d expect, given Steele’s outspoken conservatism in the state Legislature.

FiveThirtyEight: 90% chance of Republican winning South Dakota’s Senate seat

Stats whiz Nate Silver, who has a good (but not perfect) track record predicting the outcomes of political races, has released his initial forecasts for the 2014 U.S. Senate battle.

Overall, Silver says the Republicans are “slight favorites” to win control of the Senate, and gives them a 90 percent chance to win South Dakota’s Democrat-held Senate seat.

Silver notes that this forecast is preliminary and can change rapidly — shifts in the national political environment could give either party an advantage quickly. Further, compared to forecasts he makes closer to the election, he says there’s a larger amount of finessing and subjectivity in this early prediction.

Here’s what he says about South Dakota:

We also give Republicans a 90 percent chance of winning South Dakota. It’s a more straightforward case, except that the presumptive Republican nominee, Gov. Mike Rounds, has been caught up in a controversy over the state’s participation in the EB-5 immigration visa program. To have much of a chance, Democrats will either need Rounds to lose the Republican primary or be significantly damaged by it.

So far there’s not many signs of that happening. Early voting starts very soon, and Rounds’ Republican rivals need to start closing the gap, and quickly, if they want to have a chance at winning.

(Alternately, Rick Weiland or his allies could lend Rounds’ intra-party rivals a hand by launching attacks on him now. Advertising in the other party’s primary is an unusual tactic but one that has paid dividends in the past — Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill won a tough race in 2012 in part by running ads in the GOP primary that slyly boosted the chances of Todd Akin, the eventual winner her team saw as the weakest candidate. Of course, a wide-open three-way primary isn’t the same as a race with a clear favorite, like Rounds is in South Dakota.)

Read Silver’s full forecast here.

NBP finds strong support for minimum wage one year pre-election

In the final release of their early October poll, Nielson Brothers Polling, a local firm with Democratic connections, finds strong support for an increase in the minimum wage among South Dakota voters.

The 800-plus respondents told NBP they like raising the minimum wage from $7.25 to $8.50 per hour by a 63-26 margin. They endorsed indexing the minimum wage to inflation 59-27. And they supported a measure like what the South Dakota Democratic Party and labor unions are pushing 53-23.

The poll was conducted in early October. Previously, NBP released other findings from the poll, including that Mike Rounds had a 15 point lead on Rick Weiland.

Assuming the poll is accurate, does this mean the minimum wage increase is popular and on the road to passage? Not really. It’s good news, in that it suggests many voters look favorably on the idea of a minimum wage increase. But the poll is also done before the campaign, in which supporters and opponents will make their case to the people. Campaigning can change public opinion quickly, especially on issues where voters don’t have strong opinions.

Remember that in September 2012, a month and a half before the election, NBP found Initiated Measure 15 (the sales tax increase) up by 12 points. It ended up losing by 13 points.

NBP finds Rounds +15 on Weiland, leading GOP primary

Nielson Brothers Polling, a local firm with Democratic connections, finds Mike Rounds with a strong but shrinking lead over Democrat Rick Weiland.

In their Oct. 2 to Oct. 6 automated poll, Rounds had support from 50 percent of voters compared to 35 percent for Weiland.

That’s down from June, when NBP found Rounds up 54-27, more than 25 points.

Rounds was in a strong position in the GOP primary. NBP found 46 percent of Republican voters picked Rounds. The strongest GOP rival was Stace Nelson with 10.5 percent. Larry Rhoden (4 percent) and Annette Bosworth (3 percent) were far behind.

(This, to me, is perhaps the most interesting finding of the survey — I think it’s the first time we’ve had a public, scientific poll ask this question. I’m not surprised that Nelson is doing better than Rhoden and Bosworth, since he’s tapping into an established network of conservative activists including tea party groups and Ron Paul supporters. That said, his early lead now doesn’t mean he’ll hold it.)

A third of Republican voters were undecided.

Winning a multi-way primary election doesn’t require an absolute majority. Rounds just needs a plurality of votes with at least 35 percent support to win without a runoff.

In head-to-head matchups against Nelson, Rhoden, and Bosworth, Weiland comes out narrowly on top in all three. He’s neck-and-neck with Nelson, with 35.5 percent to Nelson’s 34.5 percent, and beats Rhoden 36.5 to 32, and Bosworth 37.5 to 32.5. NBP says a big part of this close race is Republican support dropping off sharply for the lesser-known candidates.

The pollsters also asked about a hypothetical primary election between Weiland, Brendan Johnson and Steve Jarding (even though Johnson has said he won’t run for Senate and Jarding has only talked about running for House and governor). They find Johnson, much better known, would clean house with 31 percent to Weiland’s 10 percent and Jarding’s 6.5 percent. This comes despite Weiland making big gains among Democratic voters since the June survey, as he’s toured the state and spoken to many local Democratic groups.

The survey talked to just over 800 voters and has a margin of error of around 3.4 percent for more questions. Questions about the Republican primary talked to around 400 voters and had a margin of error of 4.8 percent. Questions about the Democratic primary talked to 280 voters and had a margin of error of 5.8 percent.

This was the second of three releases from NBP about this poll. They previously released results about the government shutdown. Next week they’ll release polling on the minimum wage and abortion. The issue-specific questions were asked after the head-to-head matchup questions.

Weiland poll: Rounds lead down to single digits

Today’s all about the polls, apparently.

As I was analyzing Stace Nelson’s recent one-question poll, a new release came out from Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling with a new survey (PDF) they conducted on behalf of Rick Weiland.

Unlike Nelson’s survey, the PPP poll appears to be generally scientific. It’s got 10 questions, including the usual demographics. While it asks some leading questions, the core findings — Rounds’ and Weilands’ approval ratings, and the head-to-head matchups — are phrased neutrally, and (very importantly) are asked first, before the leading questions that might cause low-information voters to change their minds.

PPP releases the entire survey, in order, and their crosstabs. All of that is good.

None of that changes that this was a campaign-commissioned poll, so the decision to release it was that of the campaign. Presumably, had the result been bad for Weiland, he wouldn’t have made it public. That doesn’t invalidate the poll, but it’s reason to be somewhat skeptical. Models like Nate Silver’s famous approach discount internal polling while not discarding it altogether.

(UPDATE: A response from the GOP at the bottom.)

The findings:

  • Most voters don’t know enough about Rick Weiland to have an opinion. Those who do know about him are predominantly Democrats — 56 percent of Democrats have an opinion about Weiland, compared to 43 percent of Republicans and 38 percent of Independents. So it’s not surprising that Weiland has a positive favorability rating at 28 percent positive, 19 percent negative. But as more voters learn about him, this could change rapidly.
  • Rounds’ approval rating, and support, has dropped from PPP’s last poll, in March. Then, he had a 51/34 favorability rating. Now it’s down to 42/40, within the margin of error. Presuming this is an accurate finding, what accounts for this? Comparing the two, Rounds’ support among Democrats dropped 5 points. His support among Republicans dropped 7 points. And his support among independents dropped a stunning 15 points. Important point: while the Democrats and Republicans who have turned away from Rounds generally went from liking him to disliking him, the independents have gone from liking him to not having an opinion. His unfavorables only went up three points among independents. Perhaps this reflects independents taking a step back to reflect now that Rounds has become a more openly political figure with the campaign heating up?
  • PPP hasn’t released a public poll of the race since March, before Weiland entered the race. So we don’t have a straight comparison for their finding that Rounds leads Weiland by single digits, 40 percent to 34 percent. We do have other polls, by other pollsters with different methodologies, that showed bigger Rounds leads. The Nielson Brothers in June found a 25-point Rounds lead. A Republican pollster in September found a 14-point Rounds lead. I’d caution against drawing a line through those three polls and finding a trend over time. We don’t have enough data for that. Also, very important is the fact that PPP, unlike the prior polls, included Libertarian Kurt Evans in the poll. Evans drew 11 percent. The crosstabs show Evans had relatively even support among Democrats and Republicans (7 percent) and much stronger support among independents and members of other parties (26 percent). Conventional wisdom holds that Libertarian candidates draw primarily votes that would have gone to Republicans. I’d like to see a poll that asks the question both with and without Evans in the race. It’s also true that 11 percent would be a huge performance for Evans, and he’s almost certain to draw much less when voters actually go to the polls.
  • Weiland has stronger support among Democrats than Rounds does among Republicans. Rounds Weiland got support from 9 percent of Democrats, while 14 percent of Republicans backed Rounds. A full 23 percent of Republicans say they have an unfavorable opinion of Rounds. This reflects some of the discontent among elements of the base that has led to Rounds’ three primary opponents — but also shows that this discontent is limited, far short of a majority.
  • Meanwhile, Rounds is by far the strongest candidate among independent voters, with a 34 percent plurality. In fact, more independent voters told PPP that they support Evans, the Libertarian with 11 percent total support, than said they support Weiland, the Democrat who the poll says is right behind Rounds. Among independents and third-party candidates, Weiland draws 21 percent to Evans’ 26 percent. (The above caveats about Evans’ support notwithstanding.)
  • PPP’s summary suggests that Weiland’s performance is being helped by voter reaction to the government shutdown. “Add South Dakota to the list of places where the shutdown is improving Democratic prospects for 2014,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “Rick Weiland was trailing by double digits in polls over the summer, but voter unhappiness with Republicans is now making this a considerably closer race.” But this specific poll, at least, shows voters closely divided over who to blame for the shutdown. There’s a dead head between the 39 percent who blame President Barack Obama and the Democrats and the 38 percent who blame Republicans. This reflects near unanimity among Democrats that it’s Republicans’ fault (66/5), more division among Republicans (17 percent of them blame their own party) and an 11-point majority of independents blaming Democrats. This result is actually pretty in line with last week’s Nielson Brothers poll showing 38 percent blaming Republicans and 35 percent blaming Democrats.)

You can view the full results of this poll here. Here’s all my posts about polling.

UPDATE: The National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee’s political director, Ward Baker, somewhat unusually prepared a memo responding to the PPP poll. His argument, in brief:

  • There’s no way Kurt Evans will get 11 percent of the vote
  • PPP should have asked about a head-to-head matchup, too, to be a “responsible pollster”
  • The sample is skewed slightly against Republicans. It shows there being 8 percentage points more Republicans than Democrats, where PPP’s March poll gave Republicans a 12 percentage point advantage.

My take: As written above, I generally agree on the first two points.  The third is well-taken, too. Part of Rounds’ fall in support from March to now (though not all) is probably explained by that sampling difference.

Stace’s one-question poll

On Monday night, Stace Nelson’s U.S. Senate campaign put out an automated call to 837 South Dakota Republican households and got results that made Nelson pretty happy.

In a head-to-head matchup between Nelson and frontrunner Mike Rounds, 40 percent of those longtime Republican primary voters picked Nelson. Rounds had a double-digit but surmountable lead at 54 percent support.

"It’s appearing that our hard work is paying off, and the more South Dakotans are understanding the choices at hand, the more that they are looking for the conservative alternative," Nelson said.

Except there’s a lot more to the story of this poll, a perfect example of why polling numbers shouldn’t simply be taken at face value — particularly when it’s internal campaign polling. That’s because unlike public pollsters, internal polling isn’t released whatever the result is. Campaigns only release the results that make them look good. So even if their polling is perfectly scientific and accurate (and even perfectly scientific polls will fluctuate up and down within a range based on issues of sampling) internal polls can’t be trusted as an accurate picture of the race.

(For a similar anecdote about the data you have vs. the data you don’t, read the story of Abraham Wald and the shot-up British bombers.)

There’s also more to Nelson’s poll. The night before, a South Dakota voter tweeted at me that she had received a poll she thought was Nelson’s, a single question with unusual wording:

When I asked Nelson about this, he said that sounded like his poll, which was just one question.

Obviously, this is what’s called a loaded or slanted question. If a public pollster like Gallup were polling the South Dakota race, they’d simply ask respondents whether they preferred Mike Rounds or Stace Nelson in a head-to-head matchup. Asking Republican voters to choose between the “conservative Stace Nelson” and the “moderate Mike Rounds” nudges any of them who identify as conservative to pick Nelson.

So as a snapshot of what voters are feeling now, this poll is pretty useless. That’s not to say it doesn’t have uses — if viewed as a message-testing poll, it could be held up as evidence that South Dakota Republicans, if persuaded that Stace Nelson is the conservative candidate and Mike Rounds is them moderate, are relatively closely divided between the two despite Rounds’ much higher name recognition. And that message is exactly what Nelson is going to be spending the next nine months telling people from one end of the state to the other. (Though it’s worth noting that even with this leading question, Nelson didn’t win — an indication of the huge built-in advantages Rounds has.)

Whenever I write about polling in this manner, I like to repost a clip from an old British comedy show, “Yes Prime Minister,” in which the characters discuss how you can make polls show whatever you want them to say by shaping the questions:

(Also worth noting: Nelson didn’t ask at all about other GOP candidates Larry Rhoden and Annette Bosworth. “We’re not worried about the other two campaigns,” Nelson said. “Neither one of them are conservatives.” Both Rhoden and Bosworth dispute the latter statement.)

Furthermore, Nelson’s poll is not particularly scientific. It was only one question long. Real polls, even ones interested in only one answer, ask several demographic questions — the respondent’s age, race, gender, etc. In addition to giving you interesting breakdowns — maybe the poll would show that voters over 65 support Nelson more strongly when told that he’s the conservative and Rounds the moderate, which could then let you focus your message on seniors — that also lets a pollster check his sample against the broader population. If your sample is 60 percent male while the population is 50 percent male, then males are oversampled. And if males, say, were more likely to support Nelson than females wore, that oversampling of males would boost Nelson’s support. So a professional pollster would use that demographic data to weight his results so female respondent’s answers counted more heavily in the final mix, to produce a more accurate result.

Now, Nelson says he’s planning on conducting “more detailed polling” in the future, which may give him better results.

But from what Nelson told me, it’s also fair to say his polling wasn’t just intended to get a result Nelson can use to argue that the race is tight.

"We wanted to get out to those who aren’t aware of our campaign, and get the name out there," Nelson said. "We want to be pushing the fact that we’re the conservative in the race."

The key phrase in that quote is “pushing the fact.” There’s a very good reason to view this as, at least in part, a “push poll” — by the correct definition of the term. A push poll isn’t a synonym for a “slanted” or “biased” poll (though as discussed above this is also that). It’s a poll whose primary purpose is not to get data from the electorate, but to push out a message to voters. It is, as pollster Mark Blumenthal wrote, “a telemarketing smear masquerading as a poll.”

Now, as telemarketing smears go, calling Rounds a “moderate” is not the most vicious stuff, though it does indicate the vitriol with which Nelson and certain segments of the Republican base view the term “moderate.” The classic example of a push poll in American politics was in the 2000 GOP presidential primary, when South Carolina voters received a “poll” asking them, ”Would you be more likely or less likely to vote for John McCain for president if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?” (He had not.)

One grain of salt to this whole theory: a true push poll in this case would have dialed far more than 837 Republican households. It would have called tens of thousands of households. So this poll can’t be dismissed as merely a telemarketing ploy. It’s got some limited value as a message testing tool. But a better message test would have asked voters who they support with neutral language, then given them a bunch of negative information about Rounds, and then asked, “With what you know now, who do you support?” In fact, someone — we don’t yet know who — conducted a poll like that recently in the South Dakota Senate race.

So what do you take away? Rounds has some vulnerabilities if his opponents can persuade voters he’s not conservative, though even that (a charge Rounds will be firing back against, do not forget) doesn’t actually make Rounds trail. Candidates in South Dakota are experimenting with all sorts of techniques as the race ramps up. And polls, while a very useful tool, are also ALWAYS deserving of scrutiny to determine exactly what information you should and should not take away from them.

Poll: South Dakotans split shutdown blame on party lines

A new poll from the Democratic-affiliated Nielson Brothers Polling found a sharply divided state over the ongoing government shutdown.

Overall, the poll found 38 percent of voters blame primarily Republicans, 35 percent blame primarily Democrats, and 24 percent see both equally culpable.

But NBP found voters far more likely to blame ideological opponents for the stalemate. Around 66 percent of Democrats blame Republicans, while 13 percent blame their own party. Among Republicans, 55 percent blame Democrats and 16 percent say it’s the GOP.

Ideologically, 78 percent of liberals blame Republicans, while 73 percent of people who identify with the tea party blame Democrats. 

Among conservatives who didn’t identify with the tea party, 55 percent blamed Democrats and 16 percent pointed the finger at the GOP. Independents were more likely to see the Republicans as responsible, with 47 percent blaming the GOP vs. 17 percent Democrats.

NBP also asked voters their opinion of the Affordable Care Act. A majority, 54 percent, oppose the act, while 36 percent support. This, too, follows party lines: support for the law was 62 percent among Democrats and 15 percent among Republicans.

The automated poll was conducted form Oct. 2 to Oct. 6, with just over 800 respondents. The margin of error is about 3.45 percent.

Today’s release did not include all the questions asked in the poll, or full crosstabs. NBP says they’ll release more findings in the near future, including questions about the U.S. Senate race. 

Rounds’ support in the polls

A few months ago, South Dakota politicos were abuzz about a sharply anti-Mike Rounds poll that was being conducted.

That poll never got released, but Cory Heidelberger sounds like he has his hands on it.

In brief, the poll asks Republican voters who they’d support in a primary: Rounds or a “more conservative candidate.” Then it asks them about a litany of Rounds criticisms, and after going through all those attacks asks them if their opinion has changed.

Unsurprisingly, Rounds’ support drops from 52 percent at the start to 35 percent after the attacks.

(By the way, Cory, that’s not a “push poll.” That term doesn’t refer to a biased or slanted poll. It refers to a mass telephone message in the guise of a poll that’s actually intended to disseminate an attack to as many people as possible. “A true push poll is not a poll at all. It is a telemarketing smear masquerading as a poll,” writes pollster Mark Blumenthal. Read him here.)

What to make of this poll?

On one level, it’s interesting: it shows that Rounds is vulnerable to attacks that his record is unconservative. Voters who are told a bunch of Rounds’ alleged misdeeds and deviations from conservative orthodoxy are less likely to support him. This is exactly what Rounds’ opponents will hope to do over the coming year.

Whether or not those opponents can do that is another question, a matter of both resources and execution. And keep in mind that in this poll, voters were given only the anti-Rounds message. In the real world, they’ll also be given a pro-Rounds message from the Rounds campaign.

What you shouldn’t do is look at this poll and conclude that Rounds’ true support is only 35 percent. Rounds’ support falls to 35 percent if you expose voters to a range of anti-Rounds attacks without any kind of response, and that’s not going to happen in the real world.

So if one is conducting this poll to test messaging or prove that Rounds is theoretically vulnerable, that’s great. If you just release the final number and say you have a poll that shows Rounds trails a generic conservative challenger, then that’s highly misleading. 

As a side note, Heidelberger says the anti-Rounds poll was conducted by Public Policy Polling, and paid for by “some conservative.” (UPDATE: I reviewed my notes from the time, and people who received this poll said it identified PPP as the pollster.) PPP is a Democratic polling firm, and interestingly is in the news today with questions on its polling methodology. Nate Cohn of The New Republic wrote a long critique of PPP, and in particular its approach to its public polls (the anti-Rounds poll appears to have been a PRIVATE poll, so Cohn’s critiques don’t necessarily apply here), saying they appear to be using unsound methodology and relying on other polls to get close to the final result. PPP’s response is here.

Poll: Rounds is the only candidate most South Dakotans know

A new poll (PDF) from the Republican firm Harper Polling finds Mike Rounds in a stronger position than any of his fellow U.S. Senate candidates, largely because his name recognition is much higher than anyone else.

Rounds has a 47 percent approval rating against 31 percent unfavorable, the only candidate with a positive approval rating and the only one known by more than half the sample.

In a head-to-head matchup with Democratic candidate Rick Weiland, Rounds wins 52-38.

That’s a better performance than a generic ballot between unnamed Republican and Democratic candidates. The generic Republican wins that fight 46-36.

The other three Republican candidates all underperform the generic candidate. Annette Bosworth and Stace Nelson are tied with Weiland, while Rhoden has a small lead.

Curiously, Harper Polling does not appear to have asked Republican respondents who they’d vote for in a U.S. Senate primary.

The poll also indicated broad opposition to an attack on Syria. Of the sample, 26 percent supported such a strike, while 52 percent were opposed. Among Republicans, 15 percent were in favor and 63 percent against. Among Democrats, a 42 percent plurality backed the strikes (which were introduced by invoking Obama’s name) and 30 percent were against.

The poll surveyed 517 likely voters via automated polling. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percent. The sample was 43 percent Republican and 40 percent Democrat — a more Democratic sample than the state’s actual electorate.

Other interesting finds from the cross-tabs (PDF):

  • Around 20 percent of voters who identify as “conservative” or “very conservative” have an unfavorable opinion of Rounds. His approval rating among all Republican voters is 71-15. That 20 percent figure matches up with what Gordon Howie was polling in the 2010 gubernatorial primary until last-minute news about his tax problems emerged.
  • Larry Rhoden is much better known (and better-liked) in the Rapid City area than he is in Sioux Falls, but even so 61 percent of West River voters don’t have an opinion about the state senator
  • Voters 18-35 have better opinions of Bosworth, Rhoden, Nelson and Weiland than do older voters. But younger voters are less enamored, relatively, of Rounds and Sen. John Thune. Younger voters are more likely to be liberals, and the cross-tabs don’t give us a breakout about how young Republicans feel
  • Plenty of self-identified “very conservative” Republicans have negative opinions of the candidates vying to be a “conservative alternative” to Rounds. Among those very conservative voters, Bosworth’s approval is 16-14, Nelson’s is 19-16, and Rhoden’s is 18-17.
  • Unsurprisingly, the Sioux Falls area is friendlier to Democrats than the Rapid City area is.

(H/T Pat Powers)

Nielson Brothers: Rounds leads Weiland two to one

Mike Rounds leads Democratic rival Rick Weiland by more than 25 points, according to a new poll by Nielson Brothers Polling.

Nielson Brothers is a controversial firm, with some ties to the Democratic Party, that has been accused of inaccuracies by Republicans. They’re had some wild misses and some respectable results over their relatively brief career. (Here’s an analysis of their polling in the 2012 election, in which they were sometimes quite accurate, but when they missed, it was in favor of the Democrats.)

Their latest poll was conducted from June 10 to June 14 — a relatively long time ago for a June 27 release — and sampled around 500 South Dakota voters through an automated polling system. The margin of error is around 4.4 percent.

The Nielson Brothers found Mike Rounds receiving 54 percent of the vote compared to 27 percent for Weiland in a head-to-head matchup. The biggest issue for Weiland is that half the respondents didn’t know who he is. Only 8 percent said the same for Rounds. Rounds’ approval rating was 52 percent positive, 29 percent negative — with that 30 percent figure being about the floor of core Democratic support in South Dakota.

The poll was in the field when Rep. Kristi Noem announced she would run for House; if it’s accurate, she made the right decision. In a head-to-head race among GOP voters, Rounds led Noem 56 percent to 29 percent.

Noem’s approval rating was 56 percent positive, 43 percent negative. Sen. John Thune’s was 67 percent positive, 33 percent negative.

President Barack Obama was favored by 41 percent of voters. That’s compared to 38 percent in PPP’s March poll, and 46 percent in NBP’s October 2012 poll.

A large majority plurality of those polled said South Dakota is headed in the right direction, with 49 percent agreeing versus only 23 percent disagreeing. Even 42 percent of Democrats said the state was heading in the right direction, while 58 percent of Republicans said the same thing.

Paul Nielson of NBP said the company will be releasing more numbers from the same poll next week, asking about same-sex marriage and background checks for firearms.

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