Rural Vote Up for Grabs

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A Center for Rural Strategies poll of rural voters in 13 key swing states illustrates a critical rural battleground in the fall election. No one is predicting that the Republican presidential candidate will lose the rural vote. The question is the margin, which will be critical to the outcome of the national election.

Republican John McCain leads Democrat Barack Obama by 9 points among rural voters in battleground states, according to a poll released mid-May by the Center for Rural Strategies on behalf of the National Rural Assembly.

Among likely voters in rural parts of 13 swing states, 50% favored McCain while 41% supported Obama, who leads in Democratic primary delegates. The poll was done when Hillary Clinton was still in the race and found that rural voters split evenly at 46% with Clinton against McCain.

The poll reveals problems and opportunities for both parties, according to political consultants who analyzed the nonpartisan poll.

Republican poll adviser Bill Greener of Greener and Hook said McCain has strong support among rural voters. "It's clear the Republican brand is suffering across the nation, including in rural America," Greener said. "But McCain still shows strength, even if it is not yet at the level that will be required on Election Day to win."

Large rural margins were central to George W. Bush's White House victories. He won rural voters nationally by 11 points in 2000 and 19 points in 2004.

"Obama enjoys a 10-point advantage over McCain on change and an 8-point advantage on the economy," said Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. "If the current numbers hold, Barack Obama will do appreciably better in rural American than John Kerry did four years ago. That said, this survey shows some real challenges for the Democratic front-runner."

The poll shows that both Republican and Democratic candidates need to pay attention to rural voters, said Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies, which has conducted similar polls of rural voters since 2004.

"We keep seeing that national elections turn on rural votes," Davis said. "But we are miles away from seeing national policies on issues like energy, jobs and the environment that reflect the concerns of rural voters."

Rural voters said that the high cost of energy was the most important economic issue. Half of all respondents selected this issue, twice the number that selected the next highest issue, which was spending too much money on Iraq.

Other poll findings included:

  • Obama scored better with rural voters against McCain on issues of the economy (an 8-point advantage) and creating "the right kind of change" (a 10-point advantage). But McCain scored better on the situation in Iraq (3-point advantage) and shared values (9-point advantage).
  • Respondents split equally between Obama and McCain (36% each) when asked which candidate would do a better job dealing with rural issues.
  • McCain was viewed positively by 39% of those polled. The Republican was viewed negatively by 40%. Obama was viewed positively by 37% positive of those polled, negatively by 42%. Clinton also was viewed positively by 37%, negatively by 47%.
  • President Bush's positive rating stands at 29%. The president's negative rating among rural voters is now 59%, a sharp contrast to 2004 when he won rural voters by 19 points.

Getting enough to win

Republicans may take heart in learning that most rural voters believe Obama does not share their values. But they can take no comfort in rural voters giving Democrats an eight point advantage on managing the economy and most agreeing that "John McCain served his country honorably, but does not seem to understand my economic problems."

Democrats complain that rural voters ignore their own economic interests in voting for Republicans. While rural voters give an edge to Democrats in managing the economy overall, the party has not persuaded voters that it will do a better job of dealing with the economic issues closest to home — rural issues. A little over one-third favor Barack Obama on that score and the same proportion John McCain, the Center for Rural Affairs said. http://www.cfra.org/node/1293

If Republicans would go to bat on rural economic issues, they could persuade rural voters that they understand the challenges they face. And if the Democrats would go to bat for ordinary rural people on those issues, they might finally give rural Americans a reason to vote economic issues.

But to date in this election and every election for the last generation, neither party has demonstrated that it will fight for ordinary rural people. The party that finally does can capture the rural margin it needs to win this election and many elections to come," stated Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs.

For more on the candidates' stances on agriculture, read a previous post, "Key Ag Issues Hinge on Fall Elections.

Tell us what you think. Do you think the presumptive nominees for president will speak loudly for agriculture?

A Center for Rural Strategies poll of rural voters in 13 key swing states illustrates a critical rural battleground in the fall election. No one is predicting that the Republican presidential candidate will lose the rural vote. The question is the margin, which will be critical to the outcome of the national election.

Republicans may take heart in learning that most rural voters believe Obama does not share their values. But they can take no comfort in rural voters giving Democrats an eight point advantage on managing the economy and most agreeing that "John McCain served his country honorably, but does not seem to understand my economic problems."

Democrats complain that rural voters ignore their own economic interests in voting for Republicans. While rural voters give an edge to Democrats in managing the economy overall, the party has not persuaded voters that it will do a better job of dealing with the economic issues closest to home — rural issues. A little over one-third favor Barack Obama on that score and the same proportion John McCain, the Center for Rural Affairs said.

If Republicans would go to bat on rural economic issues, they could persuade rural voters that they understand the challenges they face. And if the Democrats would go to bat for ordinary rural people on those issues, they might finally give rural Americans a reason to vote economic issues.

But to date in this election and every election for the last generation, neither party has demonstrated that it will fight for ordinary rural people. The party that finally does can capture the rural margin it needs to win this election and many elections to come," stated Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the Center for Rural Affairs.

For more on the candidates' stances on agriculture, read a previous post, "Key Ag Issues Hinge on Fall Elections."

Tell us what you think. Do you think the presumptive nominees for president will speak loudly for agriculture?

 

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