Results Suggest that Voters Would Support “Nebraska-Style” Non-Partisan Legislature
With only days remaining before the 2013 session of the South Dakota Legislature convenes, a new Dakota Poll survey of registered voters regarding public attitudes toward the state Legislature, suggests that a large majority of South Dakotans (60%-32%) believe that “politics in Pierre has become too partisan” and that the Legislature is doing an ineffective job of dealing with the most pressing issues facing the state.
Survey respondents also agreed, by a margin of 56% to 41%, that “the South Dakota legislature is controlled too much by lobbyists and special interests”.
Over the last two decades, both houses of the South Dakota legislature have become heavily dominated by the Republican Party. In 2013, the House of Representatives will include 53 Republicans and only 17 Democrats. In the Senate, the balance is 28 Republicans and 7 Democrats. While GOP state leaders remain widely popular, by an overwhelming majority, 78% to 20%, survey respondents said, “One party government is a bad idea.”
Survey respondents were asked about two policy innovations to make the legislature more non-partisan and more transparent. By a large majority of 62% to 33% those surveyed said they would favor a “non-partisan legislature modeled on the current Nebraska state government, in which individuals would compete in non-partisan primaries without party designations, and the top two vote getters competing against each other in the general election.
By an even larger majority of 82% to 17% survey respondents said they would support a law to establish tougher disclosure law on lobbying income and expenses.
Survey respondents were asked to grade the Legislature on a scale of “excellent, good, fair, and poor” on its handling of fourteen different policy problems facing the state ranging from “providing adequate funding for K-12 public education”, to “spending taxpayer dollars wisely”, to “helping South Dakota get more high wage jobs.” Strong majorities judged the Legislature to be doing a “fair to poor job”, and in no policy area did the number of respondents who believe that the Legislature is doing an “excellent” job rise out of single digits.
In particular, the Legislature continues to be haunted by public dissatisfaction with its effort to properly support public education. Only 8% of respondents said that the Legislature was doing an “excellent” job of “providing adequate funding for K-12 public education,” while 37% said that the legislature was doing a “poor” job. When asked whether the legislature is “Making sure our education system is creating workers attractive to industry”, only 5% of respondents said the Legislature was doing an “excellent” job. 24% said the legislature was doing a “poor” job. Similarly, when asked if the Legislature was doing a good job of “Making sure our educational system is creating workers qualified to compete for high wage jobs”, only 7% gave the Legislature an “excellent” grade, while 23% gave it a “poor” grade.
Respondents were given the open-ended opportunity to say what “the most important issue that leaders in Pierre should be focused on” in 2013. 31% said that they wanted the focus put on education. 16.1% said “Budget”. 15.6% answered “Economy”. Only 4.3% suggested that the Legislature should focus on taxes. By a margin of 65%–31% respondents agreed with the statement, “The Legislature spends too much time and energy on the abortion issue.”
In policy areas where the state is heavily supported by federal spending (“roads and highways” and “protecting the environment” ), the number of respondents who believe the Legislature is doing an “excellent/good” job approached bare majorities of 48% and 53% respectively. But in policy areas where the state is dependent on its own resources and has only small support from the federal government–“helping South Dakota get more high-wage jobs”, and “providing the right tools to attract new jobs to South Dakota” — the public grades the Legislature poorly. 70% of respondents thought the Legislature is doing a “fair to poor” job of “Helping South Dakota get more high-wage jobs”. Only 28% said that the Legislature is doing an “excellent/good” job.
Only 42% of respondents said that the legislature was doing an “excellent/good” job of “Providing the right tools to attract new jobs to South Dakota”, whereas 56% said that the Legislature was doing a “fair /poor” job.
A large number of South Dakotans know at least one member of the legislature, but voter participation in the processes of government is low. Only 3% of respondents say they have made a phone call to a member of the Legislature. 14% have sent a letter. 13% have attended a meeting. But 70% have had no contact with a member of the Legislature at all.
While President Obama has very high “unfavorable” ratings among South Dakota voters, 55% unfavorable compared to 42% favorable, Governor Daugaard receives high marks, with a 66% favorable-25% unfavorable rating. Representative Kristi Noem has more difficulty with voters, scoring only a 56% favorable/40% unfavorable rating. With a “very unfavorable” rating of 24%, Congresswoman Noem continues to feel the effects from Novermber’s tough re-election campaign.
U.S. Senator John Thune continues to be extraordinarily popular with voters. His overall favorable rating is 75%, compared to a 21% unfavorable rating. While Democratic Senator Tim Johnson is also popular, with 60% favorable and 32% unfavorable. Johnson lags far behind his potential 2014 opponent, former Governor Mike Rounds, who scored a strong 72% favorable rating compared to only 23% negative. Rounds’ high favorability rating and low unfavorable rating suggests that Johnson will have his hands full holding on to his seat in 2014.
By a margin of 67% to 30%, South Dakota voters say they intend to vote “Yes” on Initiated Measure #15 on the November ballot, to according to results of the new Dakota Poll. Measure 15 would raise the South Dakota sales tax one cent with the proceeds used to support public education and Medicaid.
The Dakota Poll was conducted by RBI Strategies and Research of Denver, Colorado between September 29-30. 400 “likely voters” were surveyed by telephone. The margin of error is 4.9%. All questions, topline results, and crosstabs are available at dakotapoll.com.
Support for the sales tax crossed ideological lines. Self-described “Conservatives”, “Liberals” and “Moderates” all supported Measure #15 by large majorities. Even self-identified “Tea Party” supporters said they intended to vote “Yes” by a margin of 49% to 43%. Among “Very Conservative” voters, 49% of respondents said they intended to vote “No”, while 46% said they intended to vote “Yes.” (see crosstab table # 104)
Respondents to the Dakota Poll also indicated that they were leaning against Referred Law #16 on the November ballot by a margin of 52% to 46%. Referred Law #16 grew out of Governor Daugaard’s education reform initiative in the 2012 legislature. If passed the law would establish a system of merit pay for excellent teachers, pay bonuses to math and science teachers, establish a uniform teacher and principal evaluation system, and eliminate the current requirements for teacher tenure.
Conservatives narrowly support the Governor’s initiative. Moderates and liberals were opposed. (see crosstab table # 114)
The mood of South Dakota voters toward the economy has dramatically improved. In October, 2010, at the height of the financial crisis, the Dakota Poll surveyed “South Dakota Adults” on the question, “Would you say things in South Dakota are heading in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?” In 2010 less than a majority, 49%, said things were on the right track. 29% said things were on the wrong track. Almost exactly two years later, the Dakota Poll asked “likely voters” the same question. “Heading in the right direction jumped from 49% to 65%. “Wrong direction” held steady at 28%. In 2010 the “unsure category was 21%. Today, the “unsure” category has dropped to only 6%.
Conservatives are most optimistic that “things in South Dakota are heading in the right direction”, by a margin of 71%-22%. Liberals are evenly divided. 45% believe things are headed in the right direction. 45% believe things are on the “wrong track”.
Regarding “Referred Law #14” the Large Project Fund that would allow the Governor to “eliminate the contractor’s excise tax on construction projects that exceed $5 million in cost, on a case by case basis, when the Governor deems it beneficial to give the project a financial incentive”, 34% of the respondents supported the measure while 54% said they intended to vote no or were leaning toward a no vote.
On Constitutional Amendment “O”, which would change the way proceeds from the Cement Plant Trust Fund are allocated to support state aid to schools, respondents were overwhelmingly positive. 63% indicated that they would vote “Yes” to change the Constitutional language. Only 28% said they intended to vote “No”.
Contact: Sam Hurst-(605) 430-4286
Television remains king, but South Dakotans are actively using the internet and ‘smart phones” as sources of information in their daily lives according the a recent survey by The Dakota Poll, and mainstream traditional media is responding by developing its own online presence. The Poll was conducted in February and March by RBI Strategies and Research of Denver, Colorado. 461 South Dakotans were surveyed. The margin of error was 4.56.
81% of South Dakotans now have access to the internet at their home or work (52% have access at both locations). Access does not decline in rural communities. While the saturation of internet access is 87% in cities, it is a remarkable 78% for people who live in rural areas. 70% of respondents use the internet every day. (http://www.pewinternet.org/Static-Pages/Trend-Data/Internet-Adoption.aspx) According to an August 2011 survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 78% of Americans use the internet.
44% of the people surveyed use a cell phone capable of accessing the internet—a so-called ‘smart phone’. Despite South Dakota’s rural profile, smart phone usage is almost exactly equal to the percentage of Americans nationwide who use ‘smart phones’. (http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2012/Smartphone-Update-2012/Findings.aspx) 70% of the people who have a ‘smart phone’ use its internet capabilities at least once a day.
When asked if they would be willing to pay a “small monthly fee to receive local information, local news, and local sports online” an overwhelming 79% said, “no”. Only 3% said they would be willing to pay a fee for news and information.
South Dakotans are also spending money to make purchases on the internet. 71% of respondents said they had made an online purchase of between $50 and $500 in the last two months. 48% said they had “visited the website of a South Dakota business”. 24% said they had made an online purchase from a South Dakota company.
While most mainstream daily media outlets in South Dakota have websites, KELO and its West River affiliate KCLO have made the most substantial inroads with the public. When asked “What is your favorite website for state and local news?” 12% of respondents listed Sioux Falls CBS affiliate KELO. 11% listed KELO’s west river partner KCLO. Both television stations use the website www.keloland.com.
By comparison, the Rapid City Journal’s website (http://rapidcityjournal.com/) is the favorite of 8% and the Sioux Falls Argus leader website (http://www.argusleader.com/) is the favorite of 6%. The website of traditional west river regional powerhouse KOTA, www.kotatv.com is the favorite of only 2%. (KOTA has recently launched a new web presence, www.mytown.com. The site is new and has been heavily advertised, but was not tested in the Dakota Poll.) These outcomes suggest that KELO is extending its traditional broadcast dominance into the internet.
57% of respondents said that they visit Facebook. One third, 33%, said that they use Facebook every day. But when asked the question: “Which one do you have more confidence in—local news as reported by newspapers, TV or radio stations—or what ordinary citizens write on blogs, Facebook, and the like?” 69% said that they have the most confidence in traditional newspapers/TV/Radio. Only 6% said that they had confidence in blogs, Facebook, and the like.”
Battle Between Traditional Media
When asked to describe their “main source of national news”, South Dakotans overwhelmingly chose television—56%. Internet sources are the main source of national news for 25% of respondents. Newspapers are the main source for 13%. Radio 6%.
The numbers change dramatically when the question was changed from “national news” to “local news”. 39% said they rely on newspapers for local news. 36% rely on television. 14% rely on internet.
28% of respondents to the Dakota Poll said that they read the online edition of their regular newspaper or both the online and print edition.
7% said that they had dropped their paid subscription to the printed newspaper in favor of the online edition.
When asked the question: “…if your local newspaper no longer existed, would that have a major impact, a minor impact, or no impact on your ability to keep up with information and news about your local community?” 39% said it would have a major impact. 35% said it would have a minor impact. 25% said it would have no impact.
In a battery of seven questions designed to reveal the “quality” of news coverage in South Dakota, and the credibility of television news compared to newspapers, the results were heavily tilted in favor of local television. For example, when asked to rate “the quality of your local newspaper on reporting the news accurately”: 19% reported “excellent” and 24% answered “only fair or poor”. By comparison, when asked the same question of their “favorite local TV news station”, 24% reported “excellent” and 9% answered “only fair or poor”.
Complete survey results from “The Dakota Poll on South Dakota Media” are available at dakotapoll.com.
The Dakota Poll is also available on Facebook
NOTE FROM JODY SEVERSON: When reviewing crosstab tables, remember that the percentages shown in the “toplines” may vary from those shown in the crosstab table. In the survey, some people were not asked some of the questions. For example, people who do not have Internet access were not asked the battery of questions detailing Internet usage. In the toplines, all percentages are shown as a percentage of the entire sample, all 461 interviews, e.g., all South Dakotans. In some of the crosstab tables, for each question which was asked only to a subgroup (Internet users, for example), the percentages are shown as a percentage of the group that answered that particular question.
We did it this way to keep the topline numbers consistent and to be sure that people were not misled by overlooking the fact that some people may not have been asked a given question.
The South Dakota public school year begins this week, and a new DakotaPoll.com survey paints a picture of broad parental satisfaction with the public schools in South Dakota. The results are consistent with Gallup polling which has consistently shown a gap between high levels of parental satisfaction and low levels of public satisfaction. (http://www.gallup.com/poll/122432/parents-rate-schools-higher-americans-overall.aspx).
Between August 7-9, 2011, the Dakota Poll surveyed 400 registered voters who are parents and grandparents of students in South Dakota public schools, to determine their attitudes towards the quality of education their children are receiving. The margin of error was 4.9%. The Dakota Poll was conducted by RBI Strategies and Research of Denver, Colorado.
All primary documents regarding methodology, survey questions, and cross-tabs are available at dakotapoll.com
The fundamental premise of the poll is that parents and active grandparents of public school children form a narrow slice of South Dakota voters who have reason to pay the closest attention to the day-to-day operation of South Dakota schools, and have the most self-interest in the quality of education their children receive. The suggestion is that parents and grandparents with primary interests in children would be the quickest to identify problems and support essential reforms.
The high levels of satisfaction reflected by respondents to the Dakota Poll may help explain why communities resist proposals for increased funding to secondary public education or broader school reforms.
Results of the survey show that parents/grandparents are overwhelmingly satisfied with the job that the state’s public schools are doing.
–85% of respondents said they are either “completely satisfied” (29%) or “somewhat satisfied” (56%) with “the quality of education students receive in kindergarten through grade 12 in South Dakota.” (Q-8)
When the question is put in a personal form, and respondents were asked about the quality of education in their own children’s schools, the percentage stayed the same.
–85% of respondents are satisfied. (32% “completely satisfied”, 53% “somewhat satisfied”)(Q-9)
When asked to rate their level of satisfaction with the way local schools were handling a variety of eight different tasks (Questions 10-17), including, “Making the community feel like a welcome part of the school system”, to “Encouraging students to get further education after high school” to “Preparing students for life and work as adults”, respondents reported very high levels of satisfaction across the board.
–The lowest level of satisfaction was 67% in response to the task of “Preparing students to succeed in a competitive global economy”. (Q-17)
–The highest level of satisfaction was 84% in response to the question “Making the community feel like a welcome part of the school system.” (Q-10)
Respondents showed a moderate concern that too little emphasis is placed on foreign language, art and music, and health, (Questions 20, 22, 23) but;
–73% believes that the right amount of emphasis is being placed on “Reading and English” (Q-28)
–66% believes the right amount of emphasis is being placed on “Sciences” (Q-24)
–69% believes the right amount of emphasis is being placed on “Math” (Q-25)
–67% believes the right amount of emphasis is being placed on “History” (Q-26)
Parents and grandparents have a very positive impression of the work of public school teachers.
–48% responded that 70% or more of the teachers in their children’s schools were doing an excellent and truly outstanding job. (Question 29)
A majority of respondents (54%) do not believe that “raising teacher pay would improve the quality of education in your local schools”. 44% believe that raising teacher pay would improve the quality of education. (Q-31)
The Dakota Poll asked a battery of questions about parental relationship with schools. The results show a substantial gap between how parents look at their own behavior compared to the behavior of other parents.
When asked to rate how well “families in your school are doing…” on a series of 7 tasks (Questions 33-39), respondents answered that only 33% are doing a good job of “Disciplining their children”. (Q-39)
–35% of families are doing a good job of “Stepping in or seeking help when there are drug or alcohol related problems” (Q-38)
–38% of families are doing a good job of “Making sure the children get a good night’s rest before school. (Q-37)
However, when asked to evaluate their own performance on the same tasks, 83% told the Poll they were doing a “Good job” of “Disciplining your children” (Q-43)
–75% responded that they were personally doing a “Good job” of “Stepping in or seeking help when there are drug or alcohol related problems” (Q-45)
–76% responded that they were personally doing a “Good job” of “Making sure the children get a goodnight’s rest before school. (Q-44)
The Dakota Poll asked a series of questions about the relationship of teachers-students-parents on problems of “discipline”. (Questions 47-52)
–52% of parents/grandparents said that their children had been disciplined by their school. (Q-48)
–91% responded that their children were treated fairly by the school. (Q-49) However, once again a gap appears in the way parents/grandparents perceive their own behavior compared to that of other parents.
Respondents were asked the following: “If your child came home with a note from his teacher describing an incident in which the child was disciplined for in-class behavior and if your child disagreed with the teacher’s description of the incident, would your FIRST instinct be to believe the teacher or your child.” (Q-47)
–58% of respondents told the Dakota Poll that their first instinct would be to believe the teacher. (Q-47)
–25% responded that their first instinct would be to believe the child. (Q-47)
However, parents/grandparents were also asked to respond to the following question: “Some teachers say that when they attempt to discipline a student who is causing problems, the parents will either attack the rules or defend the student instead of siding with the teacher to solve the problem. Overall, what has been the experience in your local schools—are parents more like to defend their child or more likely to side with the teacher?
A substantial majority of respondents–60%–told the Poll that other parents would be inclined to “defend the child” rather than “Side with the teacher”. (Q-50)
Results suggest that there is a significant gap between how parents/grandparents perceive their own behavior and how they perceive the behavior of other parents/grandparents.
By large majorities, parents/grandparents describe themselves as playing an active role in their local schools and in the school life of their children.
–43% said they have attended a school board meeting in the last five years (Q-53)
–86% said they regularly attend parent-teacher nights at school (Q-54)
–66% said they have volunteered in the classroom in the last five years (Q-55)
–71% said they talk to their children/grandchildren about what they are doing in school on a daily basis. (Q-58)
Cross-tab analysis of the poll indicates that a high regard for the quality of public education extends evenly across age, income, level of education, and residential location.
For details on July 2011 national Gallup polling on public “confidence” in schools, see: (http://www.gallup.com/poll/148724/near-record-low-confidence-public-schools.aspx)