Stories

Rural Americans are more worried about culture than economy

Ed Andrieski / AP

A new WashPost/Kaiser Family Foundation poll revealed a telling truth about Americans: those living in rural areas are concerned about the economy, but they're more worried about the country's shifting culture and demographics.

Shot: "Rural residents are nearly three times as likely (42 percent) as people in cities (16 percent) to say that immigrants are a burden on the country," WashPost notes.

Chaser: "Rural voters who lament their community's job prospects report supporting Trump by 14 percentage points more than Clinton, but Trump's support was about twice that margin — 30 points — among voters who say their community's job opportunities are excellent or good."

Why it matters: Many have thought that economic concerns among rural Americans with fewer job opportunities drove them to elect Trump. This poll challenges that, highlighting their deeper concerns are about accepting diversity, particularly immigrants, and feeling like the federal government favors urban Americans.

What they're saying: "They're not paying taxes like Americans are. They're getting stuff handed to them," said Larry E. Redding, a retired canning factory employee, to WashPost. "Free rent, and they're driving better vehicles than I'm driving and everything else."

Bottom line: The unemployment rate in rural areas is only slightly worse than in urban areas (5.3% to 4.8%, respectively), yet a shrinking workforce and low wages keep many rural residents living in poverty. Those economic worries seem to be projected onto urban residents, particularly minorities and those with "a pretty liberal opinion," according to one poll respondent.

  • 56% of rural residents believe the government disproportionately helps urban residents
  • Rural whites are 14 percentage points less likely to say they think "blacks and Hispanics losing out because of preferences for whites" is a bigger issue than the reverse.
  • 78% of Republicans in rural areas said they believe Christian values are under attack

The Trump effect, in one fascinating stat from the poll: 50% of rural residents said they believe Trump respects them, while 48% said he doesn't — this challenges the commonly held idea that Trump gives his base voters a sense of being relatable, divorced from the typical political elite in Washington.