Poll: Noem leads by a pointNielson Brothers Polling released a survey Friday morning that showed Rep. Kristi Noem, a freshman Republican, with a 47-46 lead over Matt Varilek, her Democratic opponent.
By: Tom Lawrence, The Daily Republic
The U.S. House race between Rep. Kristi Noem and challenger Matt Varilek is close, according to a Sioux Falls polling firm.
Nielson Brothers Polling released a survey Friday morning that showed Noem, a freshman Republican, with a 47-46 lead over Varilek, her Democratic opponent.
The remaining 7 percent were undecided, according to the poll.
The poll figures are a contrast to The New York Times, which lists the South Dakota race as “solid Republican” in its rundown on House races.
Noem earned her House seat by defeating then-Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin in 2010.
This year marks Varilek’s first bid for elective office. He defeated Jeff Barth in the June 2 Democratic primary.
Tom Erickson, Noem’s campaign manager, said he doesn’t put a lot of stock in the NBP numbers.
“I would have to dismiss anyone who claims someone who supports President Obama’s health care law is getting 46 percent,” Erickson said.
He said Varilek is still unknown to many South Dakotans. In addition, Erickson said the polling firm lacks credibility. He pointed to an October 2010 NBP poll that showed Republican Dennis Daugaard leading Democrat Scott Heidepriem by only three points, 43-40, in their South Dakota gubernatorial race. Daugaard won the November election that year, 61.5 percent to 38.5 percent.
However, that same poll showed Noem with a 44.3-41.8 lead with independent candidate B. Thomas Marking at 6.5 percent and 7 percent undecided. On Election Day, Noem won 48.1-45.9 percent, and Marking garnered almost 6 percent.
Still, Erickson said the data for this new poll was questionable because of the pollster’s partisan ties.
“Paul Nielson ran for state Senate as a Democrat in 2008 in District 9, so it’s not surprising that his ‘poll’ would show Democrats with unrealistic numbers,” he said. “It would be interesting to see the methodology. Did they say if they screen for likely voters? What’s the partisan breakdown of the poll?”
Paul Nielson, president of Nielson Brothers Polling, said the firm took the gender, age and party registration of the people who were interviewed into account as it compiled the polling data.
“We’re very comfortable with the numbers,” Nielson said. “We’re entirely independent and self-funded. The numbers are what they are.”
David Benson, Varilek’s campaign manager, said he believes it’s a competitive race, but he was impressed when told NBP had it a 1-point contest.
“Wow,” Benson said.
He said he feels it is close no matter what polls indicate.
“I do, I do,” Benson said. “And I think that has a lot to do with Congresswoman Noem’s record.”
He said she is a member of a “dysfunctional Congress” that is focused on politics and not getting to work. The five-week congressional break now under way is a vivid example, Benson said.
Republicans lead in every statewide race, according to NBP. The survey was done July 19-23.
Both Public Utilities Commission incumbents are ahead of their Democratic challengers, according to the poll.
Kristie Fiegen led Matt McGovern 43-41 in the poll while Chris Nelson led Nick Nemec 54-30. There were 16 percent undecided in both races.
In the presidential race, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney led President Barack Obama 49 percent to 43 percent, with the remainder undecided.
In 2008, Republican John McCain carried South Dakota, defeating Obama 53.2-44.7, with independent Ralph Nader taking 1.1 percent of the vote. No Democrat has carried South Dakota since President Lyndon Johnson did in 1964.
In the NBP survey, respondents were also asked to evaluate Obama’s job performance, and 27 percent said they strongly approve and 18 percent said they somewhat approve, for a 45 percent overall approval rating. Of the 55 percent who disapprove, 42 percent said they “strongly disapprove.”
The poll questions all drew around 540 responses and had margins of error of about 4 percent.
Nielson Brothers Polling plans to release more findings from the survey, including questions on ballot and social issues, in the coming days.