One of the most consistent takeaways from the work we do at One Country Project is the need for lawmakers to understand rural voters’ attitudes, values, and policy opinions in a more comprehensive way, so they can actually pass policy that betters their lives.
In light of this, we conducted the new Rural Horizons Poll and released it at the inaugural One Country Rural Progress Summit last week. This poll gives an in-depth look at how rural Americans feel about the political situation and what issues are top of mind in their day-to-day lives.
And we found that rural voters are in a challenging mood for Democrats.
The poll saw that even with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and associated economic fallout and recovery, immigration remained the top priority for rural voters. Still, they have strong concerns about inflation, jobs, politicians, and family farms. An overwhelming majority (83 percent) agreed the cost of everyday items, such as food, clothing, and gasoline, was rising quickly. Yet, even with mounting concerns of jobs and the economy, the majority of voters (68 percent) are content with their current financial situation and are optimistic that their personal financial situation will remain the same or even get better in the next year. With the Build Back Better agenda on the horizon in Washington, an influx of new jobs and funding for economic programs can make that belief a reality.
Perhaps the most critical and interesting find was that rural voters do not believe either party is speaking to them and meeting they where they are at. A minority of rural voters, just 34 percent, believe the Democratic party does not consider their way of life, and only 38 percent believe Republicans do the same. The lack of faith in the Republican party is particularly fascinating, given the success of Republican candidates at the ballot box in rural counties across the country.
The key to understanding the contrast between the beliefs about the Republican party and their success in recent elections is the persistent popularity of former President Donald Trump. Of the politicians included in the survey, former President Donald Trump was the only well-liked national political figure, with 55 percent of rural voters viewing him favorably. All other politicians tested, including President Biden, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, were viewed relatively unfavorably.
We also dug into rural voters’ view of President Biden and his Build Back Better plan. President Biden certainly has some ground to make up with rural voters. Only 73 percent of rural voters who voted for Biden in 2020 plan to vote for him again in 2024 if the general election was between Biden and Trump, leaving nearly 11 percent of all rural voters to say they would not vote for him again or are unsure. He is also fallen short on expectations among a majority of rural voters – including 21 percent of Democrats.
On the other hand, President Biden’s Build Back Better plan is seen as mostly favorable in rural communities, outpacing his job approval across the board. And while voters are excited about the funding and provisions outlined in the plan, they’re remained concerned about its cost. This is why it is so important for President Biden and his administration to come to rural America and talk about the immense benefits of the Build Back Better agenda and what it will do for families and workers in our communities.
We know the power rural voters have in deciding who wins elections and sets the policy agenda for the country. As we approach the 2022 mid-terms, having a nuanced understanding of how these voters view the political environment and what is important to them is key for Democratic success. This poll offered a first look at how rural voters are feeling and what President Biden and his allies need to do to win their support. At One Country, we are committed to continuing this work to shed an important light on the attitudes and concerns of rural voters and helping lawmakers and rural advocates make better, more inclusive policy, which is critical to rebuild rural America and support our small-town communities.
Read the full poll on the OCP website.