Rural Voters Swing Hard to the Dems
by Jonathan Singer, Fri Oct 27, 2006 at 10:40:53 AM EDT
Following up on polling from last month that showed rural voters split evenly between the Democrats and the Republicans, Democratic pollster Anna Greenberg and Republican pollster Bill Greener conducted another survey this month for the non-partisan Center for Rural Strategies and the numbers are pretty overwhelmingly good for the Democrats.
The rural vote has shifted in favor of Democratic congressional candidates in the last month, indicating Republicans are losing ground with a key constituency, according to the Center for Rural Strategies Poll.
The poll of rural voters in 41 contested congressional districts found that likely voters preferred Democratic candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives by a margin of 13 points, 52 percent to 39 percent. In mid-September, the same population of voters was evenly split between the two parties at 45 percent each.
"We're seeing a real erosion in Republican support among rural voters, and that could determine who controls Congress," said Democrat Anna Greenberg, one of the poll's analysts. "There has been a perfect storm of issues that have led rural voters toward Democratic candidates -- the war in Iraq, economic struggle in rural communities and a muddling of 'moral values' because of the Mark Foley scandal."
"The numbers in this poll have to be disturbing to any Republican involved in the upcoming election," said Bill Greener, a Republican strategist and consultant on the poll. "Republican success has relied on strong support from rural voters, and this survey indicates we don't have that support today. We have to do better if we are going to reach our objectives on Election Day."
A significant shift to the Democrats in the rural vote could augur well for the party's efforts to win control of the House on November 7. As I noted last month, "Democrats are competitive or potentially competitive in a number of mostly rural districts currently held by Republicans including: Arizona 1 (Renzi), Kentucky 2 (Lewis), Minnesota 1 (Gutknecht), New Hampshire 2 (Bass), New York 23 (McHugh), North Carolina 11 (Taylor), Ohio 18 (Ney), Pennsylvania 10 (Sherwood), and Wyoming At-Large (Cubin)." Additionally, there are at least another dozen or more contested Republican-held seats like Washington 5 (McMorris) and Nevada 2 (Open -- Gibbons) that contain large amounts of rural voters, any major shift among whom could directly impact the outcome of individual races.
Now obviously the caviats that apply to generic congressional balloting among all voters also apply to such poll questions among rural voters. It's quite possible, for instance, that Democratic performance on election day is not quite as strong as it is in these pre-election polls, perhaps by as much as a half-dozen percent (though I don't think it will be that high). Nonetheless, given that George W. Bush trounced John Kerry by close to 20 points among rural voters, the fact that the Democrats are at least competitive now among rural voters and quite possibly actually leading is a striking shift, and one that could sway control of the 110th Congress from the GOP to the Democratic Party.