An analysis of the presidential election results tells a great deal about both the differences and similarities between rural and urban America, say veteran political consultants and pollsters Anna Greenberg of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc., and Bill Greener of Greener and Hook, LLC.

Speaking at "The State of 21st Century Rural America: Implications of Policy and Practice" seminar hosted at Washington, D.C., by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Greenberg and Greener noted that nearly half (48 percent) of voter in rural areas describe themselves as conservatives, compared to 39 percent among voters in the nation as a whole.

Rural areas boast larger numbers of evangelicals (28 percent compared to 21 percent nationally) and represent the only areas in the country where a majority of households own guns (57 percent compared to 40 percent nationally).

Rural voters place an appreciably higher priority on moral values than the rest of the country, and this greatly influenced their voting decisions, noted Greenberg and Greener, in a report "The Message from Rural America: The Rural Voter in 2004," released at the March 22, 2005 seminar.

During the election, two competing dynamics were at play, said Greenberg and Greener. Rural is the most culturally conservative part of the country and cultural issues drew rural voters to the President. At the same time, rural America is the most economically populist part of the country, and this worked in Senator John Kerry's favor. Fully half of rural voters identified either Bush's "Tax cuts for the wealthy" or his "corporate interests" as serious Bush doubts, compare to 43 percent nationally.

Greenberg and Greener see rural voters continuing to play a key role in upcoming elections. The electoral stakes will be just as high in 2006 and 2008 and both parties will likely look at the trends, short-term and long-term, in rural America and see both opportunity and risk, said Greenberg and Greener. In 2006 they expect that the rural vote will make a critical difference in Senate races, not only in swing states such as Wisconsin and Minnesota but also red states such as Nebraska and Louisiana.

As a result, concluded Greenberg and Greener, rural America will remain a key political battleground and prize for many years to come.

Source: W.K. Kellogg Foundation