Farm Swing States Crucial for Presidential Win

DC Dialogue

Romney narrows the gap that Obama won in last election among farm states.

Published on: October 22, 2012

Political insiders have said that in order to win an election, a nominee must obtain at least 60% of the farm vote, which Romney is coming up on now. A new bipartisan survey shows that Republican nominee Gov. Mitt Romney has increased his lead among rural voters in swing states. The farm vote has always been crucial in presidential elections, and it looks to be the same in 2012.

According to a National Rural Assembly poll released October 16, 2012, rural, swing-state voters surveyed the previous week said they preferred Romney to President Barack Obama by a 22-point margin, 59% to 37%.

Romney lead surges from September to October and replicates similar Republican lead in Bushs win in 2004.
Romney lead surges from September to October and replicates similar Republican lead in Bush's win in 2004.

As the chart shows, Obama was able to narrow the voter gap in farmer country when he ran against Sen. John McCain. President George W. Bush saw similar numbers when he won in 2004.

In a similar poll from mid-September, conducted before the first presidential debate, Romney led Obama among rural voters in swing states by 14 points, 54% to 40%.

“We’re seeing a major shift to Gov. Romney among these voters, and that’s going a long way toward tightening the presidential race,” said Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies, which commissioned the poll.

“The challenge for President [Obama] is just not to get beat too badly in the rural areas,” said Republican Glen Bolger of Public Opinion Strategies. “This presages a very close election because, as well as Obama did in the rural areas in 2008, he's clearly not replicating that.”

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 nine states have a collective rural population of 13.6 million, according to the Census Bureau.

Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, a firm that works for Democratic candidates, conducted the poll. A Republican firm, North Star Opinion Research, helped design and interpret the poll’s results. The poll was funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Dan Judy of North Star Opinion Research said Mitt Romney had been “under-performing” among rural voters in September. “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.”

Democrat Anna Greenberg said the latest surge likely could be because of Romney's strong first debate performance and "went a long way to making rural voters more comfortable with him in the way they were comfortable with George Bush."

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 farm swing states have close races for the House and the Senate and 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.”

To hear more about the farm impact on this year's vote, listen to Jacqui Fatka discuss the survey's findings and where candidates stand on top-of-mind ag issues.