Rural Voters See Little Difference between Political Parties

The rural vote is up for grabs. That is good for rural people because it sends a message to both parties that they can neither write us off nor take us for granted. 

  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, and it’s critical to the outcome of the national election.

Republicans may take heart in learning that most rural voters believe Barack 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.

It’s no wonder that rural voters see little difference. Both parties produce farm bills that subsidize mega farms to drive family farms out of business, as they fail to invest in entrepreneurial strategies to create genuine opportunity for rural people and a future for their communities. Both parties produce tax bills that lavish tax breaks on corporate America and mega farms, rather than helping ordinary rural people buy homes and start farms and small businesses.

Neither party has demonstrated real commitment to ensuring that rural people – who contribute so much to the nation’s prosperity – share in it. Neither party seems to understand that America will never be as strong as it can be until all of America has the opportunity to share in building wealth, assets, and prosperity.

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.

Agree or disagree? Send your comments and questions to Chuck Hassebrook, chuckh@cfra.org or 402.687.2103 x 1018.

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