McCain Leads in Rural Battleground, But is it Enough Rural Support?

A new poll from the non-partisan Center for Rural Strategies has John McCain up ten points in rural counties in 13 battleground states. The 742 respondents favored McCain 51% to 41% for Democrat Barack Obama.

But that's not necessarily good news for the McCain camp. President Bush won rural counties by twice that margin and rural voters were considered key to the president's two elections.

Analysis of election results from 2004 show a 4.1 million vote margin in rural counties for President Bush. That gave the president the edge he needed to overcome John Kerry's margin of 3.7 million votes in urban areas.

McCain's 10 point lead in the new poll isn't believed to be enough to make up for Barack Obama's expected 2008 margin in cities.

A series of rural polls since 2004 indicates a decline in the Republican dominance of rural areas.

McCain can take solace in the fact that rural voters indicated they have more faith now in how he'd handle key issues, including the economy and taxes. That's compared to the responses in a similar rural poll in May.

Still, those responding to the poll rate McCain and Obama even or nearly even on how they each would handle the economy and energy and gas prices, the two biggest issues they cited.

President Bush had a similar share of support (nine per cent) in a rural battleground poll taken in September 2004. But he doubled that support on election day.

The new and earlier rural surveys were conducted and analyzed by a bi-partisan team consisting of the Democratic polling firm of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and the Republican political consulting firm of Greener and Hook.

I'll have more on the rural vote tonight on All Things Considered — and later today on the web.



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I have recently moved back to rural WI and am an independent planning on voting to Obama. I'd like to find out why people who live in rural areas as a demographic tend to vote Republican whereas people who live in cities seem to vote more Democrat (looking at a pic of Ohio from 2004 when I lived in Cleveland).

Sent by SB | 9:26 AM | 9-22-2008

This phenomenon was bore out during the last presidential election in Illinois. Overall, Illinois appeared pretty solidly democratic. But looking at the county by county vote, the vast majority of the counties voted republican. The state was carried by the big elephants of Chicago, Rock Island and East St. Louis. That's reflected in the state government as well. It signals a politically marginalized way of life.

Sent by Stephen McAllister | 9:51 AM | 9-22-2008

Stephen, given that Chicago, Rock Island, and East St. Louis vote Democratic, wouldn't they more properly be called "the big Donkies"?

Sent by Gary Cooper | 10:36 AM | 9-22-2008

I have a theory as to why those living in rural counties tend to vote republican even though their choice most often hurts them. I think it's because they don't have time to brush up on all the issues to make their choice an educated one. I have a brother (divorced with children) who works like a horse to make ends meet. After he's done with his job, he's off to little league, soccer, various school functions, etc. He might make it home in time to catch some of an evening news program if he isn't too tired, and let's face it: the MSM isn't the most educational and unbiased. It's sad really. My brother is an intelligent man who truly wishes to do the best for himself and his children, yet when I talk with him, I'm surprised at the "facts" he shares with me regarding both candidates. It's as if he's perpetually two weeks behind on his current events. As a result, much of what he believes has already been debunked by fact checker organizations. The media is doing such a disservice to the hardworking US citizens in the name of ratings, and I think it's shameful.

Sent by sem | 10:43 AM | 9-22-2008

Here we go again...sem...those that vote republican are less informed and less educated than those that vote democratic. It is the mantra of the left and appears to be the mantra of NPR and its listeners.

Sent by Mike Cloghessy | 10:50 AM | 9-22-2008

SB and Stephen McAllister highlight a phenomenon described in detail in "The Big Sort," a book by Bill Bishop, who is quoted in tonight's All Things Considered story about this rural poll. Bishop cites 30 years of election returns and demographic data in noting that Americans have essentially sorted themselves into counties and communities of like-minded people.

Sent by Howard Berkes, NPR | 10:56 AM | 9-22-2008

Isn't it fascinating? It is difficult to not feel that those who feel differently than yourself aren't somehow misinformed. I'm not sure, being human, that we can feel any differently. What we do with that, how we approach people with differing opinions, says a lot about who we are. In this day and age it seems so frequently, we take a verbal hatchet to the "opposition". Take no prisoners. No holds barred. All out war. We up the stakes so high, I'm afraid we're losing a bit our humanity. How divided are we really? How divided do we need to make ourselves?

Sent by michael | 11:53 AM | 9-22-2008

I agree with the first comment. Good info, but why is McCain having problems in rural areas? I find it odd that there's not even a guess at the possible causes.

Sent by Bill Vanaver | 9:40 PM | 9-22-2008