Rural voters have been a Republican bastion for at least a generation, with Democrats trying to at least be competitive so small-town voters don’t offset their advantage in cities.
A new poll suggests they may not be competitive enough.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has opened up a 22-point advantage among rural voters in swing states, according to a poll released today by the National Rural Assembly, a group of largely left-leaning, prairie populist groups. The poll, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, holds bipartisan credentials — it’s conducted by Democratic pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research and designed by Republican firm North Star Opinion Research.
And it’s not good news for President Barack Obama.
Romney’s margin among voters in nine swing states who don’t live in metropolitan areas increased to 59 percent to 37 percent in the survey of 600 voters conducted Oct. 9-11, from a 54 percent to 40 percent margin in a similar poll by the group done in mid-September, a gain of 8 percentage points for the Republican.
In 2008, Obama lost rural areas in 13 swing states by only 2 percentage points.
His collapse in rural areas this time around complicates his bid for re-election, said Dan Judy of North Star.
“It’s fair to say his lead among these rural voters is what’s helping him in swing states overall,” Judy said.
On topics including values, the economy, Medicare and Social Security, the middle class and the federal deficit, Romney held advantages of at least 20 percentage points. The only topics on which Obama was close were women’s issues and health care, where Romney held 2- and 3-point leads. Obama had led on women’s issues by 5 points in the September poll.
“We’re seeing a major shift to Governor Romney among these voters, and that’s going a long way toward tightening the presidential race,” said Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies, which commissioned the poll. The Whitesburg, Kentucky-based organization is part of the National Rural Assembly.
The states included in the poll were Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.