Big is bad in rural America. Big government, big business and even big agriculture.
A poll of rural voters commissioned by the Center for Rural Affairs found broad support for smaller government and more efficient use of public funds. But the poll also found that rural voters support government programs in job training, education, agriculture and other investment in people and infrastructure.
“It’s too simplistic to say that rural is anti-government,” said Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group, the Republican analyst for the bi-partisan poll. But politicians also can’t ignore rural voters’ desire for smaller government, less regulation and lower taxes.
The poll’s findings have implications for both parties seeking to woo rural voters.
“We are brain dead when we argue that people in rural America don’t see a role for an active and engaged government,” said Bill Greener, a Republican strategist who consulted on the poll. But rural voters want more efficient government that does more with less.
Agriculture subsidies are an example. It turns out that not even rural residents support the current ag program. The pollsters found that rural voters think the current ag subsidy system puts too much money in the pockets of big, corporate farms. “Rural Americans don’t want to subsidize big farms,” Goeas said. They’d like to maintain the current level of funding for ag programs but invest the money in smaller farms and new farmers.
The poll interviewed 804 rural voters in the Midwest, Great Plains and South from May 28-June 3. Other regions weren’t included because of funding limits. The margin of error was 3.74%.
Democrat Celinda Lake, Lake Research Partners, was also part of the poll design and analysis.
(More data is available here. This is a PowerPoint download file. Click the graphic below to enlarge.)