The One Country Project recently released the first of three reports on President Biden’s first 100 days in office and how his policies are being viewed by rural Americans. The report analyzed publicly available social media conversations in rural communities of seven different states. This critical information provides insight into how President Biden’s initial weeks are being perceived in rural states, what issues are front of mind, and whether rural Americans believe his first actions are having a positive impact or are failing to deliver.
President Biden’s rural reaction can be described as “mixed.” He made many promises during his campaign, and while rural Americans are worried about a lot of topics, COVID-19 and employment/jobs take center stage. There was an overwhelmingly positive response on anything to do with President Biden’s pandemic relief legislation, stimulus checks, and raising the minimum wage. The president’s actions in support of COVID-19 prevention and the roll-out of the vaccine had positive reactions. He was lauded for having empathy, determination, and showing strong leadership to combat the disease. Rural Americans are pleased to see a plan for fighting this pandemic – something the Trump administration refused to provide.
These findings are juxtaposed with the negative responses to President Biden’s policy on job growth. Cutting projects like the Keystone XL pipeline, which provided for good paying jobs in the midst of record unemployment, has sparked politically charged conversations where Biden is perceived as valuing ideology above American jobs. Without providing a plan for how Keystone XL pipeline workers could find alternative employment, President Biden left himself open to the criticism that he is playing politics and not taking a balanced approach to battling the climate crisis. Rural Americans are reeling from job loss caused by shrinking communities and the COVID-19 pandemic. President Biden will need to show that he is acting on increasing good paying jobs in rural communities.
The sentiment surrounding immigration was extremely negative. President Biden will need to work in a bipartisan way to address how the nation perceives immigration reform and refugee resettlement. Trump used his platform to vilify immigrant children and communities during his four years in office. It will take a concerted effort to depoliticize this issue, craft a bipartisan bill providing for meaningful immigration reforms, and gather the requisite 60-vote Senate coalition to pass it through Congress.
Other cornerstone issues included health care and education. President Biden was praised for his intention to freeze a number of Trump-era health care price reforms, and others mentioned his effort to broaden access to health care. For schools, the conversation is hyper-focused on whether or not they should reopen. Parents are exhausted from balancing virtual learning and work, and they want to see in-person learning return. They criticize President Biden for failing to have a plan to open the schools and have students and teachers return safely. As the Biden administration continues its efforts to have students return to the classroom, they will continue to face Americans with no appetite for delays.
While there was much to learn from with this report, President Biden still has a majority of his 100 days left to act on campaign promises and priorities. North Dakotans and other rural Americans look forward to President Biden ushering through his COVID-19 relief bill and delivering on the direct stimulus that President Biden promises, and that is so needed. With rural Americans expressing a “mixed” reaction to the first third of President Biden’s initial 100 days in office, his administration will need to ensure that while his political capital is at its peak, Biden is not forgetting the priorities and needs of rural America.
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