Skip to main content

South Dakotans Split on Support for Vaccination Passports

The South Dakota COVID-19 Family Impact Survey 2021 was conducted from July 31 to August 14, 2021 by The SDSU Poll, a research group housed in the School of American and Global Studies at South Dakota State University. This survey builds upon similar surveys conducted by The SDSU Poll in October 2020 and April 2021. In this poll, a total of 573 registered voters in South Dakota answered questions about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their daily lives. The margin of error of this survey was +/- 4 %, on par with other state-wide polls.

Preferences on Vaccination Passports are Structured Primarily on Partisan Identification

The idea of COVID-19 vaccination passports has been discussed for quite some time - even before any vaccine was authorized or approved by the FDA. Accordingly, President Biden has authorized federal agencies to explore the possibility, though we have not seen any action taken by the federal government just yet. We see rather large differences in support of vaccine passports from state to state. In South Dakota, Governor Noem issued an executive order on April 21, 2021 effectively banning vaccination passports in the state, though she has remained steadfast in allowing private businesses to enforce their own mitigation practices. What are the attitudes of South Dakotans towards vaccination passports? We find that 25% of South Dakotans are “very supportive” and 14% are “somewhat supportive” of vaccination passport. At the same time, 43% are “strongly opposed” and 6% of South Dakotans are “somewhat opposed.” This falls, rather predictably, primarily on partisan lines. Amongst South Dakota Democrats, 57% are “very supportive” and 26% are “somewhat supportive.” For Republicans, 65% are “strongly opposed” and 10% are “somewhat opposed.”

Pie charts showing the 57% Democrats are “very supportive” and 26% are “somewhat supportive” 10% “not sure,” 3% “somewhat opposed” and 4 “strongly opposed” to vaccination passports. For Republicans, 65% are “strongly opposed,” 10% are “somewhat opposed,” 11% are “not sure,” 7% “somewhat supportive,” and 7% are “strongly supportive.”


The partisan gap is greater than in the previous poll that we conducted in April of this year. In that poll we found that about 71% of self-identified Democrats in South Dakota were “somewhat” or “very supportive” and that 71% of Republicans are “somewhat” or “strongly opposed” to vaccination passports. These results underscore the hardening of political polarization of the COVID-19 pandemic that we discussed in the previous press release. The divide between Democrats and Republicans over vaccination passports follows a new, yet well-established pattern of political polarization on nearly every COVID-19 related policy question in South Dakota.

Preferences on Vaccination Passports Are Also Shaped by Age

We observe differences in support of vaccination passports between younger and older South Dakotans. Those 65 years and older approve of the measure overall. In our poll, 46% are “very supportive” and 13% are “somewhat supportive” of vaccination passports. The attitudes of younger South Dakotans appear to be the complete opposite. Among this group, 50% are “strongly opposed” and 7% are “somewhat opposed” to vaccination passports. These differences are likely attributed to the much higher risks associated with COVID-19 among the senior citizens. The younger population is less at risk and presumably freer to live consequence free of community transmission. This partly explains lower vaccination rates, as well as their opposition to vaccination passports amongst younger South Dakotans.

Pie charts showing that amongst those under 65, 50% are “strongly opposed,” 7% are “somewhat opposed,” 10% are “not sure,” 14% are “somewhat supportive,” and 18% are “strongly supportive” of vaccination passports. For those 65 and over, 21% are “strongly opposed,” 4% are “somewhat opposed,” 16% are “not sure,” 13% are “somewhat supportive,” and 46% are “strongly supportive.”

Overall, COVID-19 vaccination passports remain a divisive issue in South Dakota. Findings of our poll uncovered differences between Democrats and Republicans in South Dakota, as well as between younger and older citizens. This is a pattern we found consistently in all our surveys taken during the pandemic. While our attitudes are shaped primarily by partisan identification, there is a very important age dimension at work as well. Older South Dakotans, irrespective of party affiliation, tend to be more cautious in their behaviors and more supportive of nearly all COVID-19 mitigation efforts. We will undoubtedly discuss these age and partisan dimensions more as we unroll more results in the coming weeks.

Contributors: Filip Viskupic PhD, David Wiltse PhD & Abdallah Badahdah PhD.