Presidential Election: How Often Do South Dakotans Vote Democrat?

When it comes to voting in presidential elections, South Dakotans often see red. For the last five decades, voters in the state have favored the Republican ticket. So why do we tend to lean to the right?

1964. That’s the last time South Dakotans have voted for a Democrat to win the white house. And that year most states did. Lyndon B. Johnson defeated Barry Goldwater in one of the largest victories by a presidential candidate in U.S. History.

“South Dakotans tend to vote differently in our votes for Senator and Representative than we do either for President or for our local races,” said USD Political Science Professor Michael Card.

Only three other times have South Dakotans voted blue. Two of them came with the election and re-election of FDR in ’32 and 36′. The first time was 120 years ago for William Jennings Bryan in 1896.

“Back to statehood days, historically we’ve been a Republican State.  Part of that is based on most of the eastern side of the state was settled by Civil War Veterans. Almost all of the northern states were from the Union side,” said Card.

South Dakota native George McGovern didn’t even carry his own state when he ran for President as a Democrat in 1972. Part of it was due to his running mate having mental health issues. Another reason: he didn’t run during hard enough times.

Card said, “Even though we had an oil embargo and a war going on in Vietnam, we’re not in a period of isolationism, we’re not in a period of farm crisis so that’s when non-Republicans tend to get elected is during those times.”

Political Science Professor Michael Card says South Dakota gets more money from the federal government than the state raises in tax revenue.
He says we tend to vote Democrat when we need the most help.

“I think it was a question of our local boy who had gone to Washington. He wasn’t seen as being able to bring home the bacon so to speak and I think those are factors that hurt him,” said Card.

Despite a controversial Republican candidate on the ticket, Card doesn’t think it will be enough for South Dakotans to say yes to a Democrat in 2016.

Card said, “I can’t see Secretary Clinton winning South Dakota, but I’ve been wrong a lot of times.”

We’ve seen the most dislike for these presidential candidates than in any other election. Because of that, the professor says South Dakotans could look to those they trust, meaning Sen. John Thune or Rep. Kristi Noem. While the two have spoken out against Donald Trump, they said they would still vote for him.

When South Dakotans have voted Republican, Presidential candidates haven’t won by terribly large margins in South Dakota. Card says there’s typically a 10 percent advantage if there are two candidates on the presidential ballot.