SDSU poll finds majority of South Dakotans support a mask mandate

Published: Oct. 22, 2020 at 3:46 PM CDT
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BROOKINGS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - A new poll conducted by South Dakota State University found a majority of South Dakotans support the idea of a mask mandate, while a slim majority of residents disapprove of the handling of the coronavirus pandemic on a state and federal level.

The results of the South Dakota Voter Survey were released on Thursday. It was conducted by “SDSU Poll,” which university officials say is a research unit of its political science program.

The poll was broken into two main parts - one where pollsters asked South Dakotans about the government response to the pandemic, while the other focused on COVID-19 policy and mitigation efforts.

According to the poll, 56% of registered voters in South Dakota showed support for a “policy that would make it mandatory to wear a face covering in all indoor public spaces,” like businesses and restaurants. About 35% of people were opposed to this policy, while 8% were undecided.

Researchers say support for a mask mandate followed a sharp partisan divide. Around 95% of Democrats supported this policy, while only 25% of Republicans were in favor of it. There was also an age divide - with 64% of South Dakotans over age 60 supporting the mandate, compared to slightly over half of people younger than that supporting it.

The other element of the poll released Thursday focused on the perception of how governments at the local, state, and federal level are handling the pandemic.

A slight majority - about 52% - expressed disapproval over President Donald Trump’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis. About 42% supported his response, while seven percent were undecided.

At the state level, a razor-this majority disapproved of Gov. Kristi Noem’s handling of the pandemic. The poll found 50.1% of residents disapproved of Noem’s response, while 45% approved. The remainder were neutral.

Researchers noted that while Noem’s support generally mirrored the president’s, the governor differed in that she had “more intense” support than Trump. Just under 33% of those polled “strongly approved” of Noem’s response, while 35% “strongly disapproved.” Compare that to Trump, who only received strong approval from around a quarter of respondents, while nearly 45% said they strongly disapproved.

Similar to the questions regarding a mask mandate, responses over government response were very partisan. Democrats nearly universally disapproved of both Trump’s and Noem’s handling of the coronavirus. However, over three-quarters of Republican approved of Trump’s response, while nearly 80% supported Noem.

Meantime, local governments - which includes city, county, and other municipal governments - received broader support, with much less opposition. About half of respondents approved of their local government’s handling, while 26% disapproved. The rest were neutral.

More info about the poll, from South Dakota State University: The South Dakota Voter Survey was conducted in the first two weeks of October by The SDSU Poll, a research group housed in the School of American and Global Studies at South Dakota State University. Our survey of 485 registered voters in South Dakota asks respondents about their impressions of government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The margin of error is +/- 4.5%, on par with other state-wide polls.

Read the full results of the poll here.

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