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Kristi Noem really underestimated the bipartisan love for dogs

Our furry friends are something that even Republicans and Democrats can agree on.

- May 3, 2024
Americans' love for dogs is bipartisan, surveys show.
(cc) corsner, via Flickr.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem is facing strong bipartisan backlash after she revealed in a new book that she shot and killed her 14-month-old dog Cricket. Noem had been one of the leading 2024 Republican vice-presidential candidates. But even MAGA stalwarts like Donald Trump Jr. and Steve Bannon criticized her for including the puppy’s killing in her memoir.

In fact, the public outcry against Noem’s actions has all but ended her shot at becoming the vice presidential nominee. “After this, it’s just impossible,” a source close to Donald Trump told the New York Post. It’s not surprising, then, that Noem’s chances of being named Trump’s running mate have plummeted in the prediction markets – dropping from 18% on April 25 down to just 5% on April 30. 

Why Noem’s tough talk backfired

Several commentators suspected that Noem actually included the anecdote to curry favor with the MAGA movement. As Frank Wilkinson astutely observed, “It’s there to signal solidarity with a political culture that increasingly honors cruelty and valorizes violence.” 

But that supposed strategy was destined to backfire spectacularly, as it profoundly underestimated the bipartisan popularity of dogs in the United States. Indeed, the data below shows that Americans of all political affiliations love dogs. Republicans, it turns out, rate dogs a bit more positively than Democrats do. 

Love for dogs is something most Americans agree on.

A January 2016 YouGov Poll, for example, found that 78% of Republicans said they liked dogs “a lot,” compared to just two-thirds of Democrats. Republicans were also slightly more likely than Democrats to rate dogs favorably in a series of original surveys that Mary McThomas and I fielded with the polling firm Lucid from 2018 to 2022. 

Now, as I noted back in the fall, Democrats tend to be more permissive pet parents when it comes to things like letting their dogs sleep on the bed. Republicans, relatedly, were significantly more likely to think of themselves as their pets’ owner/master than Democrats were in a 2023 YouGov Poll (60% to 43%, respectively).

Stricter pet parenting, however, is a very far cry from personally partaking in the killing of disobedient puppies. The bipartisan outrage over Noem’s tale of shooting poor Cricket was all but inevitable. After all, Americans’ love for dogs is one of the few things that still transcends the country’s deeply polarized politics.