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Local small-town and rural Ohio groups identified key issues impacting their communities: candidates should listen.

As we head into the final weeks of the 2022 election cycle, Ohio candidates have the opportunity to let rural Ohioans know who is really fighting for their communities with informed perspective from grassroots groups.

WHAT YOU SHOULD BE TALKING ABOUT AS A CANDIDATE…

  • Your rural prosperity platform. In September, RuralOrganizing.org Education Fund in collaboration with local groups in Athens, Fairfield and Licking Counties released the results of the first-ever Local Progress Report survey, a deep dive into local public opinion in high-need, low-civic engagement neighborhoods across three rural battleground counties. The results show that reducing daily expenses and improving local quality of life, particularly by addressing the addiction epidemic and investing in local housing, infrastructure, and public services are the top concerns. (See chart below.) Whether at a debate or on social media, you should be dogged and vocal in addressing these local rural and small-town Ohio issues.

  • Embrace “boldly progressive, proudly rural” messaging and policies ESPECIALLY abortion access. Even in rural Ohio,  supporting abortion rights can definitively help Democratic candidates this cycle. That's the takeaway from a new poll released by Rural Organizing/YouGov Blue. In fact, a candidate's pro-choice position was the most important issue tested among rural voters polled in 10 battleground states, even outpacing party ID (i.e., being a Republican), which came in second. 

  • Taking on corporate monopolies. Additionally, our perennial polling has shown that small town Ohoians believe the system is rigged for the powerful and wealthy. Candidates should embrace a populist, pro-democratic, message that celebrates rural life, 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.

Top Five Community Issues Receiving “Very Important” Response in Order of Most Responses

Licking County

Fairfield County

Athens County

  1. Food and grocery costs

  2.  Reduce theft in my neighborhood

  3.  Reduce the use and sale of illegal drugs in my neighborhood

  4.  Reduce healthcare and prescription costs

  5.  Clean up polluted areas

  1. Food and grocery costs

  2.  Reduce healthcare and prescription costs

  3.  Improve affordable housing options

  4.  Improve veterans services

  5.  Improve mental health services

  1. Reduce healthcare and prescription costs

  2.  Food and grocery costs

  3.  Reduce the use and sale of illegal drugs in my neighborhood

  4. Repair local roads and bridges

  5.  Reduce utility costs

*Items 2 and 3 in Licking County received the same number of “very important” responses and are listed as number 2 and 3 interchangeably

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW AS A CANDIDATE...

  • You have the opportunity of a lifetime to show that Democrats are delivering for your rural voters through the passage of progressive federal legislation that’s delivering for rural and small-town Ohio. The massive influx of federal dollars into your district shows that Democrats provide solutions by investing in rural people and their real life needs… you should tie the impact of these policies to local gains. Click here to see all major legislation passed by Democrats, including Rep. Ryan,  from the 116th and 117th Congress and how those news laws benefit rural communities. As we have said repeatedly, this is unprecedented and Democrats should lean into this.

  • Rural Ohio voters are swing voters. Democrats have a branding problem in rural communities, and what’s holding us back is the notion that our government is fatally ineffective and disinterested. There are some extremist voters who we simply will never be able to win over, but many of those who are winnable have lost faith in Democrats’ ability to keep their promises. Especially in the US Senate race, recent polls show that undecided rural Ohio voters will determine the election’s outcomes,, so you should campaign everywhere to close rural margins. We know that rural voters like Democratic policies, but not Democratic politicians; however, a candidate that revives a working class identity that celebrates small towns and rural communities is sure to appeal to rural voters.

OTHER RURALORGANZING.ORG RESOURCES WE MADE TO HELP YOU WIN  

  • What are progressive strategies for rural engagement?  How do progressives win again in rural communities? Why have we struggled to break through? What does it look like to meaningfully engage rural voters and gain support for our candidates? In this report, RuralOrganizing.org provides findings, insights, and recommendations for progressives working to rebuild power outside major metropolitan areas.

  • Key lessons from 2020. Between December 01, 2020 and March 01, 2021, RuralOrganizing.org carried out a campaign to capture, analyze, and share the lessons learned by rural engagement leaders from 2020 campaign trails. To this end, we conducted 70 “2020 Exit Interviews” with progressive rural organizers, candidates, and civic leaders from across the nation. Then, compiled our qualitative data into the set of conclusions and recommendations contained in this report.

  • How to leverage yard signs in rural communities. This toolkit is a blueprint for a campaign that uses yard signs to engage rural progressive base voters, and help grassroots organizers identify the most vocal supporters in rural communities for issue-based or electoral campaigns. This toolkit was created based on our field experiment organizing in 45 rural Kentucky precincts during the 2019 governor's race. Even though many of the organizations in our network run campaigns on a smaller scale with smaller budgets, with this toolkit, we’ll show you how to integrate our findings and ideas from our 2019 campaign to fit your needs.

  • How to fight social media misinformation in your rural town. Starting on May 30, 2020, the RuralOrganizing.org network began hearing the same rumor mentioning out-of-town “Antifa” rioters bussing into various regions across the country. This guide was written with the help of dozens of leaders from across the country in response to those rumors. Our goal was to create a resource to help community leaders fight misinformation online.

  • Ohio Local Progress Reports preliminary results. Need to know what rural Ohioans think? This blog detailing preliminary findings from our Ohio Local Progress Reports shares the relative importance of 30 separate community issues. We reached beyond the voter file to get perspectives from a greater diversity of rural Ohioans, over 40% of whom currently do not choose to vote.

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