Politics and Elections: The Poll that Wasn’t
The American Farm Bureau “poll” reveals little about farmers and even less about rural American political preferences.
A new poll from the American Farm Bureau says that the operators of the nation’s largest farms are more likely to be conservative, disapprove of how Barack Obama is doing his job, and support Donald Trump in the GOP primary.
Is there news here somewhere?
The results of this poll are about as surprising as learning that a person wearing a Carolina Panthers hat, T-shirt, and sweat pants is rooting for Carolina in the Super Bowl. You’ve got a pretty good idea about the answer before you ask the question.
The Farm Bureau poll interviewed only farmers with 200 or more acres in production. That means that the two-thirds or more of U.S. farmers whose farms are under 200 acres, according to the 2012 Ag Census, weren’t part of the poll.
Larger operators have some unifying characteristics that set them apart from the rest of farmers and ranchers, let alone the rest of rural America and the nation overall. In short, they are a bloc with a unified set of interests and a common political persuasion.
That’s not to say all farmers are politically the same. Far from it. But if you want a similar set of responses, ask a similar set of people: a small slice of people who are but a fraction of the overall farmer population but who, in this poll, speak for everyone.
Small wonder then that the Farm Bureau poll found so many of its respondents sharing the Farm Bureau’s conservative political leanings. The only news, to speak of, is that the Farm Bureau is concerned about how immigration reform might affect the supply of farm workers. Trump, the big-farmers’ preference, doesn’t seem to share that worry.
Special-interest polling is nothing new. Organizations poll their members all the time. The danger of a poll like this, however, is that it purports to speak for an occupational group, not a self-selected membership. Don’t mistake it for representing rural opinion. Methodologically, it doesn’t.