Skip to main content

South Dakotans Are Sharply Divided on COVID-19 Policy and Mitigation Efforts

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 support of policies designed to slow the spread of COVID-19, including masks. We also question them on their thoughts and concerns about the possibility of a vaccine, should it become available. The margin of error is +/- 4.5%, on par with other state-wide polls.

Opinion on a “Mask Mandate” Requiring Face Coverings in Indoor Public Spaces

About 56% of registered voters in South Dakota show support for a policy that would make it mandatory to wear a face covering in all indoor public spaces, such as businesses, restaurants, and government buildings. About 35% oppose such policy, with 8% in between. There is a sharp partisan divide, with 95% of Democrats and 25% Republicans supporting such a policy. There is also an important division by age, with 64% of South Dakotans over 60 years supporting a “mask mandate,” compared to 51% of South Dakotans under 60 years supporting such a policy.

Pie chart showing 43% strongly supporting mask mandate, 14% somewhat supporting it, 8% neutral, 8% somewhat opposing it, and 27% strongly opposing it.

Reasons for Supporting a “Mask Mandate”

Respondents were asked why they supported or opposed a mandate; they choose from multiple reasons we provided. Of the people who support a mandatory mask policy, 92% mention that they want to protect their families, 94% their communities, and 91% themselves. Just under 80% mention that wearing a mask makes them feel safer around other people.

Bar chart showing why respondents support a mask mandate. 92% to protect their family, 94% to protect their community, 91% to protect themselves, 80% that it makes them feel safe around others.

Reasons for Opposing a “Mask Mandate”

Of the people who do not support a mandatory mask policy, 61% claim that it’s because masks do not work very well, 67% believe it is an infringement on their freedom, 31% think masks are uncomfortable, and 48% oppose it because they are not concerned about getting seriously ill from coronavirus.

Bar chart showing why people oppose mask mandate. 61% say mask don't work well, 67% infringement on freedom, 31% masks are uncomfortable, 48% not concerned about getting ill from coronavirus.

Opinions on a Possible Vaccine

We also asked respondents about a hypothetical scenario in which a vaccine against the coronavirus becomes available for free. About 61% of South Dakotans say they would get vaccinated in this scenario, 29% would not get vaccinated, and 10% are not sure. Again, there is a partisan divide, with 79% of Democrats planning to get the vaccine compared to 44% of Republicans. This is also another circumstance where we see a distinct age gap, with 72% of South Dakotans over 60 years say they would get the vaccine, as opposed to 54% of South Dakotans under 60 years saying the same.

Pie chart on whether respondent would get a free vaccine if developed. 37% definitely will, 23% probably will, 16% not sure, 10% probably won't, 14% definitely won't.

Why People Favor Getting Vaccinated

Respondents were also asked about the reasons why they feel positive or negative about vaccines; again, they could choose from multiple answers. Of the people who say that they would get vaccinated under our hypothetical scenario, 90% say the wish to protect their family, 88% to protect their community, and 90% to protect themselves. Additionally, 78% believe that life won’t go back to normal until most people are vaccinated.

Bar chart on why people favor getting vaccine. 90% to protect their family, 88% to protect their community,  90% to protect themselves, and 78% believe that life won’t go back to normal until most people are vaccinated.

Why People Do Not Want to Get Vaccinated

Of the people who said that they would not get vaccinated in this scenario, 58% say that it was because they are not concerned about getting seriously ill from coronavirus, 75% because they are concerned about side effects from vaccine, and 36% believe that the coronavirus outbreak is not as serious as some people say it is.

Bar chart on why people would not get a free coronavirus vaccine. 58% are not concerned about getting seriously ill , 75% because they side effects from vaccine, and 36% coronavirus outbreak is not that serious.

Contributors: David Wiltse PhD & Filip Viskupic PhD