Republican Mitt Romney has turned a strong lead among rural voters in swing states into a landslide, according to a National Rural Assembly/Center for Rural Strategies poll released today.
Rural voters polled last week said they preferred Romney to President Barack Obama by a 22-point margin, 59 percent to 37 percent.
In a similar poll from mid-September, Romney led Obama among rural voters in swing states by 14 points, 54 percent to 40 percent.
The poll questioned 600 likely voters living in rural counties in nine swing states — Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The poll documents a continuing — in fact, accelerating — collapse of support for President Obama among rural voters.
Rural voters had been staunchly Republican in 2000 and 2004 presidential elections. George W. Bush won a nearly 20-point advantage among rural voters over John Kerry in 2004.
In 2008, however, candidate Obama lost the rural vote in 13 swing states by just a little more than two percentage points.
But in September, the President was 14 points behind Romney in the first National Rural Assembly poll of rural swing state voters. Now Obama is 22 points down.
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a firm that works for Democratic candidates, conducted the poll. A Republican firm, North Star Opinion Research, helped devise and interpret the poll’s results. The poll was commissioned by the National Rural Assembly and the Center for Rural Strategies; it was paid for by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
To see a full copy of the poll’s results, click here.
“Not only has President Obama’s support eroded (from 2008), post debate it’s eroded even more,” said Anna Greenberg. “It’s a pretty sobering result.”
Dan Judy, with North Star Opinion Research, said that the September poll showed Mitt Romney “under-performing” among rural voters. “Now he has surged into a huge lead,” Judy said, “And I think it’s fair to say his lead among these rural voters is what’s helping him in swing states overall.”
Both Greenberg and Judy described the electorate in this year’s race as “highly volatile.”
The poll shows a rapid and steep decline for President Obama in every category.
The poll asked rural voters which candidate would do a better job handling a range of issues. Voters thought Romney would do a better job than Obama in addressing every issue — often by enormous margins. And voters’ favorable feelings toward Romney have grown considerably since September:
• Values Rural voters in September gave Romney a 14-point advantage on the question of which candidate shared “your values.” In this mid-October poll, Romney’s lead on the “values” question reached 22 points.
• Economy In September, Romney had a 17-point lead (54 percent for Romney, 37 percent for Obama) on the question of who would do the best job of “improving the economy.” In this latest poll, Romney had a 30-point lead.
• Medicare and Social Security President Obama has been hammering Republicans on how they would handle Medicare and Social Security. But rural voters now believe by a wide margin that a Romney administration would do a better job of “saving Medicare and Social Security.”
According to this poll, 62 percent of rural voters said Romney would do a better job of saving these two programs compared to just 15 percent who favored President Obama — a 47-point difference.
Just a month ago, Romney had only a 9-point advantage on the Medicare and Social Security question.
• The Middle Class The Obama campaign has criticized Romney on how his policies and tax proposals would affect the “middle class.” In September, Romney had a 6-point advantage on the question of who would be best at “addressing the needs and concerns of the middle class.”
In this mid-October poll, Romney’s advantage on this question increased to 20 points, 55 percent saying the Republican would do a better job at helping the middle class compared to 35 percent who favored Obama.
• Federal Deficit In this October poll, 63 percent said Romney would do a better job of “reducing the federal deficit.” Only 26 percent favored Obama on this question.
• Women The only areas where the President is even close to Romney concern women’s issues and health care. Romney holds only a 3-point advantage in this poll on questions of who would do a better job of addressing their views on healthcare.
Greenberg sees a potential advantage for Democrats talking about these issues. But even those categories showed a movement toward Romney. In September, rural voters gave Obama a 5-point advantage on who would do the best job of “addressing the needs and concerns of women.”
In this poll, voters favored Romney by 2 points on this same question.
• Health Care And when asked specifically about “Obamacare,” rural swing state voters disapprove of that legislation by a 60 percent to 34 percent margin.
Judy said he expected these margins to stand through the election. “The reason for that is (these voters’) innate conservatism,” said the Republican pollster. “This is a case of them coming home.”
Both Judy and Greenberg said the rural swing state vote would affect more than just the presidential vote. Many of these swing states have close races for the House and the Senate; a strong vote out of rural precincts “is absolutely going to help those candidates who are down ballot,” Judy said.
“I think the President can overcome and still win (nationally),” Greenberg said. “But this makes it harder to win down ballot.”