Dueling poll results in South Dakota's U.S. House race each indicate that Tim Bjorkman has support from one-third of voters and is trailing Dusty Johnson, but the polls differ on the margin of Johnson's lead.
The first release of poll results came Monday from Johnson, a Republican from Mitchell. His poll results from Republican pollster Public Opinion Strategies, of Alexandria, Va., showed Johnson with 54 percent support compared to 33 for Bjorkman, with 10 percent of respondents undecided and a plus-or-minus 4.9 percent margin of error.
The second release of poll results came Tuesday from Bjorkman, a Democrat from Canistota. His results from Democratic pollster Public Policy Polling, of Raleigh, N.C., showed Bjorkman with the same 33 percent support, compared to 43 percent support for Johnson, with 14 percent undecided and a plus-or-minus 3.9 percent margin of error.
In other words, Johnson is touting a 21-point lead, but Bjorkman says Johnson's lead is 10 points.
Both campaigns selectively released findings from their polls in news releases and memos from the pollsters. The Johnson campaign declined the Rapid City Journal’s request for full polling data, while the Bjorkman campaign did not release full data but did supply some additional data in response to the Journal's request.
The Bjorkman campaign said in its news release that Bjorkman has "narrowed the gap,” based partly on its own release of poll results showing a 10-point margin one day after Johnson's release of poll results showed a 21-point margin.
Yet the timing of the actual telephone survey work was such that Bjorkman's poll was conducted first, July 19-20, and Johnson’s poll was conducted second, Aug. 1-3 and 5.
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Each campaign highlighted additional findings from the polls.
The memo from Johnson's pollster said he has 84 percent name recognition and a 37 percent favorable opinion rating with 18 percent unfavorable, compared to Bjorkman's 45 percent name recognition, 16 percent favorable rating and 4 percent unfavorable rating.
The Johnson memo also said he has at least 50 percent support across all gender and age groups; wins nearly six in 10 men aged 45 and older; is up 19 points in the Sioux Falls media market and 22 points in the Rapid City media market; and has 67 percent support among those who rely on agriculture for more than half of their income.
In the Bjorkman poll, by a margin of 60-19 percent, respondents were more likely to vote for Bjorkman after learning that he is refusing all special interest money from political action committees.
The Bjorkman campaign shared data with the Journal that said when voters were given descriptions of the candidates, Johnson's support shrank to 39 percent, compared to 37 percent for Bjorkman, 7 percent for independent Ron Wieczorek, 2 percent for Libertarian George Hendrickson, and 15 percent undecided.
No other results released by the Bjorkman or Johnson campaigns included any data for Wieczorek or Hendrickson. Wieczorek and Hendrickson were omitted from the Johnson poll.
All four candidates have earned spots on the Nov. 6 general election ballot in the race to succeed Rep. Kristi Noem, a Republican who is running for governor instead of running for re-election to the House.