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As Coronavirus Surges, The South Dakota Department of Health Releases Previously Hidden Hospital Bed Data in Response To RuralOrganizing.org Public Records Request

Columbus, OH—Over the past few months, as South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has downplayed the threat of coronavirus to the residents of the state, the Department of Health has refused to share critical data, including available hospital beds.

Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.Org, repeatedly sought that information through public records requests but was stonewalled for over three months. He reached out to Keloland-TV in Sioux Falls, which brought results. 

The lack of information about the situation in South Dakota is especially ominous given the state’s surging number of cases. This week, according to the New York Times, South Dakota has the second highest cases per 100,000 and three of the top hot spots in the country are in the state.

Health care and the impact of coronavirus are critically important issues for rural populations. Three polls conducted by Rural.Organizing.org this year, in  MarchMay, and  July, found health care ranked as the top issue even as voters expressed frustration with Trump’s handling of the pandemic. 

The following is a statement from Matthew Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org:

“Rural populations are facing an onslaught of coronavirus cases even as Governors like Kristi Noem downplay the crisis. She and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds seem more interested in campaigning for Donald Trump, whose failed response to the pandemic is the reason we’re in this crisis. Today, Noem is holding events in New Hampshire for Trump.

Rural voters are deeply concerned about the lack of health care options, closing rural hospitals and spiking covid-19 cases. But, their leaders are not only minimizing the crisis, they’ve been blocking access to vital information. I’m just relieved that RuralOrganizing.Org could get some results. And, I know front line health care workers understand the crisis the state is experiencing so we thank them for their heroic efforts.”

The mission of RuralOrganizing.org  is to rebuild a rural America that is empowered, thriving, and equitable. Follow us on Twitter @RuralOrganizing.

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National Rural Leaders Respond To The First Presidential Debate

Columbus, OH—Presidential candidates, Republican incumbent Donald Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden, largely ignored all substantive issues -- rural issues included -- during their first debate last night. 

Now, rural leaders are coming together to make sure that critical rural issues are not ignored during the remainder of the 2020 election season. 1 in 5 voters call 'rural America' home and these voters are looking for solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing rural communities in modern US history. These challenges include the COVID-19 pandemic growing rapidly in our rural communities, catastrophic wildfires displacing thousands of rural people and the rural  economy reaching near depression-mode in places.

The following are statements from rural advocacy leaders from across the country.

Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org said:

Most issues, including rural issues, were largely ignored during the first presidential debate last night. Rural voters deserve a dignified debate about the catastrophic challenges facing our communities. We want common sense solutions that raise our wages, decrease our daily expenses and improve the quality of life in rural communities.

Last night was an embarrassment for all Americans. The President prevented a discussion of any issues, embraced white nationalists and promoted voter suppression. We  know the dangers of these words. There are so many critical issues that warrant discussion. But that’s not what we got. Instead, we got more of the President trying to pit people against each other.


Jake Davis, Rural Policy and Political Strategist said: 

A debate in the state of Ohio with more than 2.3 million rural residents and over 77,000 farms should have included at least a mention of rural communities and farmers struggling to deal with COVID, an economic crisis and crumbling public infrastructure. Instead, the American people, including those in rural communities, were the clear losers headlined most notably by President Trump’s call for his supporters to watch the polls as a voter intimidation tactic.

Krissy Kasserman of Food & Water Action said:

Rural America has been left out of the political discourse in this country for far too long, and last night's debate was no exception. People living in rural areas are facing monumental challenges, including but certainly not limited to increasing consolidation in agriculture, declining farm earnings, the hollowing out of rural communities and worsening impacts from the pandemic. Many critical battleground states, including Ohio where last night's debate was held, have significant rural populations. The failure of candidates to address the issues that matter most to rural people will only further disenfranchise voters in the swing states that are key to winning the 2020 presidential election.

Cody Atkinson of Family Farm Action said: 

The debate last night witnessed by millions of Americans failed to address the issue of corporate control of our farm and food system and the devastating economic and environmental consequences of unhampered monopoly power. We hope the candidates use the next debate as a stage to give substantive answers on how they plan to tackle this serious problem.   


 The mission of RuralOrganizing.org  is to rebuild a rural America that is empowered, thriving, and equitable. Follow us on Twitter @RuralOrganizing.

 

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Poll of Rural Voters in Critical 2020 Senate Battleground States Found Strong Opposition to Making Abortion Illegal

Columbus, OH — Over the summer, RuralOrganizing.org conducted a poll of 7,004 rural and exurban voters fielded from June 30 to July 13, 2020 in seven Senate battleground states (Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Montana and North Carolina) and the critical presidential swing state of Wisconsin.  

The results showed that Joe Biden and Senate Democratic candidates are cutting Republican margins in 2020 battleground states in rural and exurban areas — turf usually considered prime territory for Republicans. 

In addition, we polled a number of important issues including abortion. Our findings showed that a significant number of rural and exurban voters are opposed to making abortion illegal - an issue that has much more salience as President Donald Trump and Senator Mitch McConnell move forward with a replacement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. See below for results by state.

The following is a statement from Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.Org:


“Turns out the politics of President Trump and Senator McConnell’s Supreme Court agenda will be damaging  to Republicans in Senate battleground states. Our polling shows that rural voters in these states oppose outlawing abortions, but President Trump has made it clear that making abortions illegal is one of his prioirities for the Supreme Court nominee. Americans have largely reached a consensus on reproductive health care, that’s true for voters in big cities, small towns, and rural communities. Trump and McConnell should think twice before they take our country down this divisive path.”

State by state breakdown from our 2020 battleground state polling

How Strongly do you agree with the following statement: Should Abortion be illegal?

State

Strongly agree 

Somewhat agree

Somewhat disagree

Strongly disagree 

Don’t know

Alaska

21

15

17

38

8

Georgia

24

20

18

30

10

Iowa

26

17

16

35

6

Kansas

29

18

14

32

7

Maine

17

17

17

44

6

Montana

25

15

13

43

4

North Carolina

27

19

14

32

8

National

25

17

15

35

7

 

 The mission of RuralOrganizing.org  is to rebuild a rural America that is empowered, thriving, and equitable. Follow us on Twitter @RuralOrganizing.

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In Case You Missed It: Joe Biden should pledge to create a National Office of Rural Prosperity

Columbus, OH—Today, Matt Hildreth published an op ed in the Storm Lake Times, one of the Iowa and the nation’s most cherished rural publications, calling for Joe Biden to establish an office of Rural Prosperity. The proposal is based on extensive research conducted by RuralOrganizing.org  with rural voters - and provides an opportunity for Biden to engage with voters too often overlooked or misunderstood by pundits and campaigns. 

An excerpt:

Our polling also revealed that rural people are open to bold actions and big ideas. They know a corporate agenda in Washington, DC is holding back their communities and want leaders who will have their backs by supporting small businesses and critical services in their communities like grocery stores, pharmacies, and schools.

Here’s how Joe Biden and Senate Democrats can win rural voters: propose and promote a national Office of Rural Prosperity to address the unique structural challenges of rural housing, education, healthcare, small business development, and job creation. We know addressing these issues will resonate, because this is what rural voters told us mattered most to them in our extensive research.  

Farmers comprise less than 10% of the rural workforce. Most rural Americans are employed in the education, healthcare and social assistance sectors. These essential institutions are the foundation of strong rural communities, and funding to support them directly benefits all rural people.
 

The full oped can be viewed here. Background on the extensive public opinion research can be found here.

 The mission of RuralOrganizing.org  is to rebuild a rural America that is empowered, thriving, and equitable. Follow us on Twitter @RuralOrganizing.

 

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Apparently The Trump Administration Just Learned The United States Postal Service Is A Very Popular Lifeline For Rural America

Columbus, OH—The following is a statement by Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org in response to reports that Postmaster General Dejoy will pause changes to the operations of the Postal Service until after the election.

Apparently, Donald Trump and his postmaster general just figured out what we’ve known all along: the USPS is very popular. And, as our polling shows, the USPS is particularly popular with rural voters in battleground states.

Over 430,000 Americans have taken action on our petition demanding that Congress fully fund the United States Postal Service. For years, Republicans have been working to privatize the post office.  Not only are Dejoy’s proposed changes at USPS designed to further that goal but they have proven incredibly disruptive to our democracy during an important election year. 

Today, Postmaster General Dejoy made a statement indicating he’ll stop his destruction of the USPS until after the election, but that’s not enough. There’s no good time to attack the post office. The damage he’s inflicted on behalf of Trump  must be undone and he needs to resign.

Rural Organizing conducted a poll of rural and exurban voters in seven Senate battleground states - Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Montana, and North Carolina - and Wisconsin. When asked, “How favorable are your feelings about the United Postal Services?,” the results were overwhelmingly positive - far exceeding the numbers for Donald Trump.

Again, these are rural and exurban voters.

“How favorable are your feelings about the United Postal Services?”

  • Battleground Aggregate - 68% favorable with  37% very favorable 

  • Alaska -  65% favorable with 32% very favorable

  • Georgia  - 64% favorable with 34% very favorable

  • Iowa  - 69% favorable with 37% very favorable

  • Kansas - 70% favorable with 35% very favorable

  • Maine - 70% favorable with 38% very favorable

  • Montana -  69% favorable with 41% very favorable

  • North Carolina - 70% favorable with  41% very favorable

  • Wisconsin - 68% favorable with 37% very favorable

 The mission of RuralOrganizing.org  is to rebuild a rural America that is empowered, thriving, and equitable. Follow us on Twitter @RuralOrganizing.

 

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Joe Troop Plays A Plea to the US Government to Fully Fund the Postal Service Outside Postmaster General Louis Dejoy’s Greensboro, NC Home

Greensboro, NC—Today, Grammy nominated bluegrass musician Joe Troop  joined protesters outside Postmaster General Louis Dejoy's Greensboro, NC. home with his banjo and played his song titled "A Plea to the US Government to Fully Fund the Postal Service." 

Video of the event was captured on Twitter and quickly racked up almost 20,000 views.

 

The United States Postal Service is one of the government’s oldest and most reliable entities - and that’s especially true in rural America.  This summer,  RuralOrganizing.org  launched a campaign that has generated over 427,000 signatures calling for action to save the Postal Service, nearly 50,000 petition signatures demanding an investigation into the Trump slowdown at USPS, and 30,000 letters to members of the Senate.  "A Plea to the US Government to Fully Fund the Postal Service,” written by Joe Troop, was commissioned by RuralOrganizing.org as part of this campaign.

The following is a statement from Joe Troop:

I wrote this song in April and now, four months later, we’re still waiting on the Senate to take action.

Staging a protest in front of the most exclusive country club, outside Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s Greensboro home, in defense of the Postal Service is exactly what we should be doing right now. The richest people in our country are trying to usurp our Democracy. 

Funding the United States Postal Service  is not a red or blue issue. It is an American issue. But the postal service has been made a pawn in a political parade. We don’t have to agree on everything, but we do need to come together around certain issues and the post office is one of them.

The following is a statement from Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org. 

The Postal Service has long been a lifeline for rural communities because it delivers to the most rural and remote parts of the country, often on behalf of the private delivery companies who don’t want to risk their profit margins by providing service to everyone. 

Every member of Congress, but especially those representing rural states and districts, should be demanding full funding for the post office—especially in light of this year’s election. But instead, we’re going to see which of those members put their loyalty to Trump ahead of their constituents— again.

Even before the pandemic, the rural health system was already in trouble. Now, Trump is threatening another one of rural America’s most reliable lifelines. 

The outpouring of support for the RuralOrganizing.org  campaign to save the Postal Service sends a clear message: the Senate must act now.

The following are the lyrics to Joe Troop’s song titled,  “A Plea to the US Government to Fully Fund the Postal Service”

I’m waiting by the mailbox, they say a check is coming soon
1200 bucks to ease the pain and pay a bill or two
But no more aid will come my way, unless I take a stand.
The US Postal Service direly needs a helping hand.

Oh won’t you heed this message, won’t you hear my mournful cry
It’s hard to keep your wits about with all this death and dying
But harder times will come our way, on this you can rely
Unless we learn to not be fooled by awful dreadful lies.

Our government is doing a disservice to us all.
To not deliver us the mail should be against the law!
So many men and women out risking their poor lives
Delivering goods to our front doors despite these troubled times
They make the rounds to bring us mail, they work come rain or shine
and now it seems the government is leaving them behind.

I too have lost my livelihood, I’m struggling day by day
Ole Uncle Sam won’t bail me out, while corporate crooks are saved
In times like these it’s fair to say we’ll need new ways to vote
But if the Postal Service dies, my friends, that’s all she wrote.
They’re well aware of what’s to come and chose to do us wrong.
If the US Postal Service dies, our right to vote is gone.

It’s time for us to make demands, before it is too late.
So, fully fund the US Postal Service for God’s sake!

 

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RuralOrganizing.Org Welcomes Inspector General Investigation of Policy Changes Imposed By Postmaster General Louis Dejoy

Columbus, OH—This week, nearly 40,000 people took action through RuralOrganizing.org’s online petition demanding that the United States Postal Service Inspector General investigate the Trump slowdown at the United States Post Office and ensure every mail-in ballot is counted. 

The following is a statement from Matthew Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.org in response to reports that the United States Postal Service is reviewing controversial policy changes recently imposed under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, and is also examining DeJoy's compliance with federal ethics rules.

We were encouraged to learn that the United States Postal Service (USPS) Inspector General is reviewing policy changes recently imposed by Postmaster General Louis DeJoy.  These changes have negatively impacted mail delivery for millions of Americans—especially rural Americans—whose livelihoods rely on the Postal Service.

The current slow down at USPS seems clearly designed to restrict voting by mail, which would negatively impact rural America—and our democracy.  The United States Postal Service is one of the most popular institutions in rural America because rural people use the Post Office for everything from Social Security checks and prescriptions to transporting poultry. The USPS is a vital lifeline for rural communities and we wish all of our elected officials, especially those Republican Senators with large rural constituencies actually treated it that way instead of allowing Trump to undermine it.  

We do want to thank Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Gary Peters, Tom Carper,  Ron Wyden, and Tina Smith as well as House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Maloney and Members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform Representatives Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), and Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.) for their leadership in requesting that the USPS Inspector General investigate all recent staffing and policy changes put in place under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. 

The mission of RuralOrganizing.org  is to rebuild a rural America that is empowered, thriving, and equitable. Follow us on Twitter @RuralOrganizing.

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New Kansas Poll of Rural Voters Shows Senate Race is Competitive As Covid and Healthcare Are Top Concerns

Columbus, OH — Today, RuralOrganizing.org released more findings from a poll of  1,055 rural and exurban voters in Kansas, which was fielded from June 30 to July 13, 2020.  

Results show that COVID-19 and health remain at the top of rural voters’ concerns. 

The toplines of the poll can be found here.

  • On COVID-19, a large majority of the voters - 76% -  had serious concerns about the outbreak.

  • When asked about Trump’s handling of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak the breakdown Trump was underwater: 50% disapproval (40% strongly) to 48% approval (25% strongly approve.) 

  • 53% of the voters disagreed with the statement “Trump has adequately prepared for the U.S. coronavirus outbreak.”

  • Among these rural and exurban voters in Kansas, Trump’s job approval is 53% while disapproval is 45%. Strongly disapprove is 36% while strongly approve is at 31%.

  • A majority (54%) of rural and exurban voters in Kansas think that the government should be responsible for ensuring health insurance coverage for all Americans

The polling also showed that while rural Kansas voters favor president Trump by 11 points, Roger Marshall, the Republican candidate in the senate race only leads by a slight margin.

  • In the head-to-head match up at the Presidential level, Trump leads 49% to 38% with 9% undecided.

  • A Senate race matchup between Roger Marshall and Barbara Bollier showed Marshall with a small lead at 41% to 38% while 14% were undecided.

Our findings show that rural Kansas voters are looking for unifying messages and policies that support small businesses and local residents over DC special interests.

  • 80% said they would be more likely to support a candidate who said, “We need a president who will fight for the rights of all Americans—not divide us up based on race, gender, or sexual orientation for their own political gain.

  • 75% said they would be more likely to support a candidate who said, “We must stop the pharmaceutical industry from ripping off the American people by capping what Americans pay for prescription drugs.”

  • 71% Every person, whether you live in the city or a small town, should have access to a good grocery store and pharmacy 22%

  • 70% said they would be more likely to support a candidate who said, “Tax incentives should prioritize small local businesses over major corporations.”

  • 68% agreed that USDA programs too often benefit big corporations and big farms instead of small farms, small businesses and rural Americans

Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of Rural Organizing said.

Our poll shows that rural Kansas voters are looking for unifying leaders who will fight for the rights of all Americans—not divide us up based on race, gender, or sexual orientation for their own political gain.

Rural voters in Kansas feel strongly that a handful of corporate monopolies now run our entire food system. They want bold solutions that ensure everyone has access to affordable healthcare and that prioritize small local, rural businesses over major corporations.

Candidates looking to impress rural voters in Kansas should champion an agenda that prioritizes small business owners and family farmers over corporate lobbyists in Washington, DC.

 The mission of RuralOrganizing.org  is to rebuild a rural America that is empowered, thriving, and equitable. Follow us on Twitter @RuralOrganizing.

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Popular Provisions Included in House HEROES Act Left Out of Senate Bill That Included Funding For New FBI Building

Columbus, OH — Senate Republicans finally released details of their fourth stimulus package  to address the ongoing coronavirus and its devastating economic fallout. The bill falls far short of what is needed to address the dire situation facing families across the country, particularly in rural America. 

RuralOrganizing.org released the findings from a poll of 7,004 rural and exurban voters, which shows very strong support for several provisions included in the House Democrats' HEROES Act, which passed May 15, 2020, that are not included in the Senate GOP bill.  

The House bill  included benefit increases for SNAP and the Postal Service, which are both vital lifelines for rural communities - neither of which appear in the Senate bill. The poll was fielded from June 30 to July 13, 2020 in seven Senate battleground states (Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Montana and North Carolina) and the critical presidential swing state of Wisconsin.

Toplines for the national aggregate numbers are here  and individual state results will be released next week.

Our poll found that 68% of rural and exurban voters  in the battleground states have a favorable opinion of the United States Postal Service, 37% is very favorable.  On the other side, only 11% have an unfavorable view.  21% are neutral.

On SNAP,  49% of rural and exurban voters hold favorable views of the program, which is widely used in those parts of the country. 21% hold negative views while 30% are neutral.

Our poll also found that rural and exurban voters overwhelmingly - 82% including 68% strongly - are more likely to support candidates who state that tax incentives should favor local businesses over major corporations.  91% of rural and exurban voters agree that we must end the corruption in Washington.  

Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.Org stated:
 

"Senate Republicans are once again proposing corporate bailouts and corrupt insider deals for the rich while working people are struggling. We need the Senate to step up and deliver a COVID-19 relief package that expands SNAP benefits,  protects the U. S. Postal Service, and funds local government. "

"Our polling shows that rural voters don't trust the President or Republican corporate bailouts to handle this crisis. With many incumbent Republican Senators experiencing declining support from rural voters, there is a clear opportunity for candidates to gain ground by supporting a bold, progressive agenda." 

“The pain is real and increasing in rural America so how did Trump and Senate Republicans respond:  A new FBI Building on Pennsylvania Avenue. While that helps Donald Trump’s hotel business, it shows utter contempt for the millions of Americans, including so many in rural America, who are  experiencing the economic fallout from the failed response to the pandemic.  Rural voters get that the system is rigged, which is why they overwhelmingly want to end the corruption in Washington DC.  Instead, even in this unprecedented crisis, we’re seeing more of the same from Trump, McConnell and the GOP Senate.“

 The mission of RuralOrganizing.org  is to rebuild a rural America that is empowered, thriving, and equitable. Follow us on Twitter @RuralOrganizing

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Majority of Rural Battleground Voters Disapprove of Donald Trump’s Covid-19 Job Performance

Columbus, OH — Today, RuralOrganizing.org released the findings from a poll of 7,004 rural and exurban voters fielded from June 30 to July 13, 2020 in seven Senate battleground states (Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Montana and North Carolina) and the critical presidential swing state of Wisconsin.  

Results from the poll show that rural and exurban voters disapprove of President Donald Trump’s job performance during the Convid-19 pandemic and don’t trust the information given by the President. Poll results also show that more rural voters in battleground states are concerned about the spread of the virus than social distancing measures hurting the economy.

Covid-19 related toplines of the poll can be found here.

Summary of key findings: 

  • Three out of four rural and exurban voters in these battleground states have concerns about the coronavirus. A majority of these voters (54%) disapprove of the job that Donald Trump is doing on the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

  • Only 39% of rural and exurban voters in these battleground states agree that “Trump has adequately prepared for the U.S. Coronavirus outbreak.” 55% of these voters disagree with the statement, of which 45% say they strongly disagree. However, 59% believe that the “hospitals and clinics” in their community are adequately prepared for the Coronavirus outbreak. 44% of these voters think their  “local and state leaders” are adequately prepared.

  • Regarding Covid-19 stimulus packages, more rural and exurban voters in battleground states agree (47%) that “COVID-19 stimulus packages have done more for rich people and politicians than regular working families” than disagree (40%).

  • When it comes to community impacts of Covid-19, nearly three-quarters of rural and exurban battleground state voters (72%) are concerned about the virus spreading at schools and universities, two-thirds (68%) of are concerned about the virus spreading at local businesses, 63% are concerned about the Postal Service running out of funding, 63% are concerned about the lack of widespread testing for the Coronavirus, and 60% are concerned about social distancing measures hurting the economy.

  • Only 38% of rural and exurban battleground voters trust the information given out by Donald Trump while 50% distrust the President’s Covid-19 information. 57% trust public health officials, 45% trust state and local governments, and 32% trust the news media.

The following is a statement from Matt Hildreth, Executive Director of RuralOrganizing.Org:

Donald Trump’s failure to adequately respond to the coronavirus pandemic looks to be fundamentally shifting key Senate battleground races across the country.

Our polling shows that rural voters in Senate Battleground states feel that President Trump didn’t adequately prepare for the U.S. Coronavirus outbreak and they don’t trust the Covid-19 information given out by the President. It’s also clear that more rural people think the Covid-19  stimulus packages have done more for rich people and politicians than regular working families.

The Trump administration’s failed response to the Covid-19 pandemic appears to be eroding rural support for him and a number of Senators with large rural constituencies including Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Kelly Loeffler (R-GA, David Perdue (R-GA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Steve Daines (R-MT, and Thom Tillis (R-NC).

Methodology

This survey is based on 7,004 interviews conducted on the internet by YouGov of registered voters residing and registered to vote in rural ZIP codes in Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Montana, North Carolina, Wisconsin. The sample was weighted according to gender, age, race/ethnicity, education, US Census region, and 2016 Presidential vote choice based on the American Community Survey and the Current Population Survey Voting and Registration Supplement and the Current Population Survey Voting and Registration Supplement. Respondents were selected from YouGov to be representative of registered voters. State-level weights were computed separately for each state.

 The mission of RuralOrganizing.org  is to rebuild a rural America that is empowered, thriving, and equitable. Follow us on Twitter @RuralOrganizing.

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