Polling of Rural Voters


POLLING BRIEF | 2018 National Rural Survey

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SUMMARY

In order to win again in small towns and rural communities, Progressives not only need a better message to engage rural voters, they also need to re-examine their methods of engagement. This document summarizes findings from our 2018 National Rural Survey of 820 rural Americans and provides initial insights into how Progressives can win again in non-metro areas.

In order to win again in small towns and rural communities, Progressives should:

  1. Defend the “rural way of life” by championing policies that invest in small, local businesses; keep rural schools from closing; promote smart land management policies that protect hunting and fishing habitats; support rural grocery stores, pharmacies, and clinics, and send individuals with drug addictions to rehabilitation centers instead of prisons.

  2. Embrace a populist, pro-democratic, message that rejects big money in politics, calls out race-based strategies of division, expands access to programs like Medicare, and favors small businesses over major corporations.

  3. Engage locally. Rural Americans want rural-specific solutions to rural-specific problems, like increasing local quality  jobs and education opportunities to mitigate the need to leave hometown areas for school and work. They are more likely to trust local media outlets, especially local newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations.

Top Ten Messages

Views on Rural Life Total Agree Total Disagree

Rural folks deserve equal access to education, whether it's K-12 or College.

95%

5%

The rural and small-town way of life is worth fighting for.

94%

6%

Most politicians favor larger metropolitan areas, but we need policies that address problems in rural America too.

94%

6%

Rural should not be a disadvantage. No one should have to drive 50 miles for a check-up. We need lawmakers to invest in keeping our rural clinics open.

89%

11%

In small towns and rural communities we believe in looking out for each other, whether we're white, black or brown, tenth generation or newcomer.

89%

11%

Healthcare jobs are some of the best paying jobs in rural America, and rural clinics provide a vital service while creating high-paying local jobs.

88%

12%

We have to get big money donors out of our political system.

87%

13%

We have a right to our roots. No one should have to leave their hometown in search of a good job with decent pay.

81%

19%

Small towns and rural Americans are losing ground in our economy.

77%

23%

Instead of investing in our local businesses and bringing technology to rural areas so we can be connected to the economy, Congress is giving away tax breaks to the wealthy who pocket the profits and send jobs overseas.

77%

23%


OVERVIEW

During the week of August 19-27, 2018, RuralOrganizing.org commissioned a YouGov survey of  820 respondents living in rural zip codes. The questions asked in the survey were identified by rural grassroots leaders across the country.

Survey results show that while the majority of rural Americans support Republican candidates, they strongly back policies championed by Progressives.

  • Nearly two-thirds (68%) of those polled consider themselves to be Conservative or Moderate, but the overall sample leans to the left when it comes to healthcare, education, the economy, and money in politics.

  • Three-quarters (77%) think Congress is giving tax breaks to the wealthy instead of investing in rural areas. Two-thirds (67%) support offering free tuition to local community colleges and trade schools and (63%) support expanding Medicare to cover all Americans.  Only a third (38%) think abortion should be outlawed.

  • Over half (54%) back an increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and 43% think allowing immigrants without papers already living in rural communities to become citizens will help small towns and rural communities.

However, a majority of Rural Americans (56%) don’t think Democrats are fighting for them.

  • Over 50 percent (52%), approve of Donald Trump’s job performance.

  • Republicans are favored in a 2018 generic house ballot among those living in small towns and rural communities.

As we look to the future, our data show that current Democratic strategies aren’t engaging or persuading rural Americans despite the fact that 1 in 5 rural Americans are still undecided on candidates in their House race.

Our data show that even though the percent of respondents who say they plan to vote for Trump in 2020 (40%) is lower than those who voted for him in 2016 (44%), Democrats aren’t seeing any gains: the percent of respondents  who plan to vote for Democrats in 2020 (28%) is unchanged from those who voted for Democrats in 2016 (28%).

Rural Americans approve of Donald Trump’s job performance

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Donald Trump is handling his job as president?

Trump Approval Total Approve Total Disapprove

Approval of Donald Trump

52%

42%


Rural Americans have a negative view of Congress

Do you approve or disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job?

Congressional Approval Total Approve Total Disapprove

Approval of Congress

18%

68%


1 in 5 rural Americans are undecided on their House candidate

If the election for Congress were being held today, would you vote for the Republican candidate in your district, or the Democratic candidate in your district?

House Generic Democrat Republican Other Don't Know

Vote for Congress Today

33%

43%

4%

21%


Rural Americans don’t think Democrats are fighting for them
Select whether the following statements is Always, Sometimes, Rarely or Never True.

Who is fighting for rural America? Total True Total Not True

Republicans are fighting for small towns and rural America

55%

45%

Democrats are fighting for small towns and rural America

44%

56%


Rural Americans lean left on hot button issues

Hot Button Issues Yes No

Do you support stricter laws on assault weapons?

53%

38%

Do you think that the government should be responsible for ensuring health care coverage for all Americans?

51%

35%

Do you believe global warming is caused by human activities?

48%

34%

Do you support outlawing abortions?

38%

46%


Rural Americans reject politics of racial division and want to fight for the rural way of life

Select how strongly you agree with the following statement: Strongly Agree, Somewhat Agree, Somewhat Disagree, Strongly Disagree

Views on Rural Life Total Agree Total Disagree

Rural folks deserve equal access to education, whether it's K-12 or College.

95%

5%

The rural and small-town way of life is worth fighting for

94%

6%

Most politicians favor larger metropolitan areas, but we need policies that address problems in rural America too.

93%

6%

Rural should not be a disadvantage. No one should have to drive 50 miles for a check-up. We need lawmakers to invest in keeping our rural clinics open.

89%

11%

In small towns and rural communities we believe in looking out for each other, whether we're white, Black or brown, tenth generation or newcomer.

89%

11%

Healthcare jobs are some of the best paying jobs in rural America, and rural clinics provide a vital service while creating high-paying local jobs.

88%

12%

We have to get big money donors out of our political system

87%

13%

We have a right to our roots. No one should have to leave their hometown in search of a good job with decent pay.

81%

19%

Small towns and rural Americans are losing ground in our economy.

77%

23%

Instead of investing in our local businesses and bringing technology to rural areas so we can be connected to the economy, Congress is giving away tax breaks to the wealthy who pocket the profits and send jobs overseas.

77%

23%

The widening gap between the rich and families struggling to make ends meet is hurting America.

76%

24%

Instead of delivering for working people, politicians hand kickbacks to their donors who send jobs overseas. Then they turn around and blame new immigrants or people of color, to divide and distract us from the real source of our problems.

76%

23%

Further privatizing our healthcare system will squeeze out locally operated clinics, create higher premiums, and cause rural Americans to drive further for our healthcare.

71%

28%


Rural Americans support Progressive solutions to the issues facing small towns and rural communities

Select how strongly you agree with the following statements: Strongly Agree, Somewhat Agree, Somewhat Disagree, Strongly Disagree.

In order to support rural America, we need to... Total Agree Total Disagree

Invest in small, local businesses

93%

5%

Protect rural schools from closing

91%

9%

Protect hunting and fishing habitats through smart land management policies

89%

10%

Pass policies that support rural grocery stores, pharmacies, and clinics

87%

12%

Send individuals with drug addictions to rehabilitation centers instead of prisons

77%

22%

Offer free tuition to local community colleges and trade schools

66%

32%

Expand Medicare to cover all Americans

63%

36%

Increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour

54%

45%

Allow immigrants without papers already living in rural communities to become citizens.

43%

56%


Rural Americans trust local news outlets

How trustworthy is the political information you see on each of the following?

Reliable Source Total Trustworthy Total Untrustworthy

Local newspaper

52%

31%

Local TV stations

52%

34%

Local radio stations

50%

28%

Fox News

38%

46%

CNN

31%

50%

MSNBC

29%

48%

NPR

27%

34%

Facebook

13%

70%


Rural Americans are optimistic about the future but face significant economic stress

Economic Outlook About the same Total Better Total Worse
Change in family economic situation past 4 years

39%

37%

24%

Anticipated change of family economic situation next 4 years

40%

81%

15%


How often are you worried about the following: Always, Sometimes, Rarely, or Never.

Sources of Stress Always Sometimes Rarely Never

Dealing with the costs of everyday expenses like food, gas, rent, or a mortgage

37%

39%

17%

6%

Being able to pay for health insurance

36%

32%

17%

14%

Being able to pay off my current debt

32%

31%

18%

17%

Crime and the use of drugs and controlled substances in my community

29%

40%

22%

8%

Foreign meddling in our democracy

28%

33%

24%

14%

Being able to save for the future so that I or my children can afford an education

27%

32%

21%

19%

My family having employment opportunities that will keep them nearby

24%

35%

23%

17%

Being able to find a good-paying job

25%

32%

22%

20%

Losing my job or having my earnings, wages, or salary cut back

22%

28%

25%

23%

Sanctions on American produced products like corn and soybeans

16%

35%

31%

17%

Population loss in my town or community

11%

24%

35%

30%


Rural Americans feel their needs are overshadowed by the wealthy

Select whether the following statements is Always True, Sometimes True, or Rarely True or Never True.

Views on Rural Life Total True Total Not True

The rural and small-town way of life is worth fighting for

94%

6%

People have a harder time making a living in rural America than they do in other parts of the country.

85%

15%

In rural America, people have a hard time getting ahead because the rules favor a wealthy few.

74%

26%


Rural Americans feel that the opioid crisis, broken healthcare system, and unemployment are the top negative impacts on their community

Select how much you think you and your community are negatively impacted by the following: Not At All, Somewhat, or Extremely negatively impacted.

Negative Impacts Extremely

The opioid crisis

34%

The health care system

33%

Unemployment

29%

Income inequality

23%

Climate Change

20%

Racism

16%

Immigration

16%

Global trade

13%

School shootings

12%

Foreign terrorism

10%

MS 13 gang violence

10%


Less than 10% of rural Americans are farmers

Ag Employment Yes No

Do you or does anyone in your household rely on AGRICULTURE for twenty-five percent or more of your total family income?

8%

88%

 

SURVEY DEMOGRAPHICS AND METHODOLOGY

Race and Gender

Gender Male Female
 

44%

56%

 

Race White Black Hispanic Other
 

83%

9%

5%

3%

 

Voter History

How did you vote in the last few elections?

Race Republican Democrat Other Didn't vote

Presidential vote - 2016

43%

28%

6%

20%

Presidential vote - 2012

38%

32%

4%

23%

Presidential vote - 2008

36%

32%

3%

25%

How will you vote in 2020?

Race Republican Democrat Other Don’t Know Won’t Vote

Presidential vote - 2020

40%

28%

3%

16%

12%

Are you registered to vote?

Voter Registration Yes No Don't Know
 

84%

14%

2%


Party and Ideology

With what party do you identify?

Party ID Strong D Not Very Strong D Lean D Independent Lean R Not very strong R Strong R
 

18%

11%

6%

16%

11%

11%

22%


What is your ideology?

Ideology Very Liberal Liberal Moderate Conservative Very Conservative
 

9%

12%

26%

22%

20%

Methodology

During the month of July 2018, RuralOrganizing.org asked 603 Progressive rural leaders across the country to help  develop messages for engaging their Trump voting friends and neighbors. From August 19-27, 2018, YouGov tested the resulting messages on 902 participants to produce a final dataset comprising 820 respondents. Respondents were matched to a stratified sampling frame on gender, race, age, and education using YouGov’s Current Population Survey (CPS) November 2016 Voting and Registration Supplement with a subset of adults living in rural areas. Matched cases were weighted to the sampling frame using propensity scores. The matched cases and the frame were combined and a logistic regression was estimated for inclusion in the frame. The propensity score function included age, gender, race/ethnicity, years of education, and region. Propensity scores were grouped into deciles of the estimated propensity score in the frame and post-stratified according to deciles. Weights were post-stratified on 2016 Presidential vote choice, and a four-way stratification of gender, age (4-categories), race (4- categories), and education (4-categories), to produce the final weight.

How We Define Rural

We define rural community zip codes using the Rural-Urban Continuum Codes developed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s Economic Research Service.

Rural-Urban Continuum Codes comprise a 1-9 classification scale that distinguishes metropolitan (metro) counties by the population size of their metro area, and nonmetropolitan (nonmetro) counties by degree of urbanization and adjacency to a metro area. We surveyed respondents living in  zip codes with the following classifications:

  • 7 (Urban population of 2,500 to 19,999, not adjacent to a metro area)

  • 8 (Completely rural or less than 2,500 urban population, adjacent to a metro area)

  • 9 (Completely rural or less than 2,500 urban population, not adjacent to a metro area)

Regions

Census Regions are groupings of states and the District of Columbia that subdivide the United States for the presentation of census data. There are four census regions—Northeast, Midwest, South, and West.