Rural Vote Split Between Parties

With November 7 election approaching, poll finds Democrats and Republicans in a statistical tie in rural areas.

In the November Senate and House races, whichever party wins rural America is likely to control Congress.  According to a Center for Rural Strategies poll, control of Congress could very well go either way after this election.

The poll shows Republicans leading 47% to 43% in six important Senate races in rural states, putting Democrats within the 4.3% error of margin.  Among congressional candidates, the race is even closer: among the 41 contested rural districts, each party holds 45% of the vote.

With Republicans having to fight harder than usual to maintain control of the rural vote and Democrats seeing a chance to take a majority in Congress, the rural swing will be a crucial demographic.  This may translate into more national discussion of rural issues.

With nearly 75% of those polled knowing someone who has served in Iraq, the survey puts the war at the forefront of important issues in rural America; more than half of these rural voters favor a responsible plan for the U.S. to pull troops out of Iraq within a year.  The poll ranks the economy and homeland security issues close behind the war in Iraq as issues most important to rural voters.

Strategists from both parties expressed optimism about their chances in November, but stressed the importance of the rural vote.

"The Republicans can't control the House of Representatives without holding onto rural voters, and I'm optimistic that we will,•bCrLf said Republican analyst Bill Greener. "The Congressional vote numbers in this survey are almost precisely what they were at this point in 2004.  In recent years, the Republican vote in rural areas has surged in the last few weeks before the election.•bCrLf

Anna Greenberg, a Democratic analyst with Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, notes that Democrats must continue to reach out to rural voters.

"These races are very tight, and a swing among rural voters could well tip the balance.  That means Democrats who can reach rural voters have a strong chance to win elections and perhaps gain majority control of the House."

The Center for Rural Strategies polled 529 likely voters in rural areas of the six contested Senate races and 41 competitive congressional districts from Sept. 17-19.

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