Farms Not Top in Rural Cities Anymore: NYTimes Poll

Times have changed when an Idaho Congressman can ignore Idaho farmers with impunity–as U.S. Rep. Raul Labrador did when he voted against the Farm Bill. This recent poll in the New York Times may offer some idea of what Labrador was thinking: 8 in 10 rural American report that they do not rely on Ag for a significant chunk of income (note: western cities were not included in this survey).

Idahoans should remember that in 2012 ag sales represented $7.7 billion in sales and is hugely important to our rural economies. By the same token, we need to focus on a diverse economic policy that recognizes the contributions of other small and large businesses that keep rural Idaho communities strong. For instance, the Idaho Outdoor Recreation Industry reported $6.3 billion in sales in 2012.

Idaho needs leaders who will support our traditional businesses as well as our other growth areas. We need leaders who can come up with real plans to boost our economy. We need to recognize that decades of GOP dominance has held us back from becoming a balanced economy. We now lead the nation in the percentage of workers who make minimum wage. We need to elect Idaho Democrats and re-balance our state.

Poll Finds Rural Voters Are Divided on Federal Role

New York Times
Published: June 25, 2013

Voters in some of the nation’s most rural areas, long considered a mainstay of small-government sentiments, have mixed views about the role federal policies should play in their lives, according to polling released Tuesday by the Center for Rural Affairs.

Surveying more than 800 small-town and countryside residents across the Midwest, the Great Plains and the South, the rural advocacy group found that people were evenly divided about whether Washington should make more effort to strengthen rural communities or whether such involvement “will do more harm than good.”

The polling, released just days after a farm bill failed to pass the House of Representatives, paints a nuanced portrait of rural America, one with a strong belief in reducing government spending and regulations, but increasingly in want of more effective policies that promote job training, infrastructure investment and education programs for low-income children outside of cities.

“Rural voters get put in a box of being uniformly antigovernment,” said Chuck Hassebrook, executive director of the center, based in Nebraska. “But they are not slaves to any ideology.”

Forty-two percent of those polled said they were Republicans; 25 percent Democrats; and 25 percent independent.

The telephone poll was conducted by a bipartisan polling team of Lake Research Partners and the Tarrance Group from May 28 to June 3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percentage points.

The survey also showed the rural economy is more diverse than many people believe. More than 8 in 10 of the rural Americans surveyed did not rely on agriculture for a significant chunk of their income, and nearly 6 in 10 said too much federal aid goes to the largest farms.

Mr. Hassebrook said Washington has been slow to notice the change. “There’s not nearly as many farmers as there used to be,” he said. “There may be more votes to be found for members of either party by supporting policies that invest in small-business development.”

With the economy rebounding slowly in some areas, 59 percent said the federal government had at least some responsibility to help the “working poor advance economically.” At least 8 in 10 supported job training, Medicaid for health care, and tax refunds for low-income Americans.

“They want a hand up but not a handout,” said Ed Goeas, a Republican pollster who worked on the report. Rural voters feel they have been overlooked by politicians, he said, and could make that clear in future elections. “If Republicans take them for granted and you had a Democratic candidate that addressed those things that they should also be getting to help them get a step up on the economy like other areas of the country,” he said, “I think there would be some traction.”

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