Trump taps rural, farmer vote in election win

Source: By Mia Everding, The Daily Nebraskan • Posted: Friday, November 18, 2016

Throughout Donald Trump’s winding journey along the campaign trail to his eventual victory on Nov. 8, blue-collar, middle class workers bolstered the president-elect’s voter base.

That proved true in Nebraska, where his appeal won over the majority of the electorate, especially among rural, working-class communities throughout the state. With that wave of momentum, Trump won every county in the state except Lancaster and Douglas counties.

Brad Lubben, an assistant agricultural economics professor and policy specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said while he and others predicted the state would support Trump, the passion showed across the state was somewhat unexpected.

“There was obviously expectation that there might a rural versus urban divide, but it clearly swung more so to Trump than anyone was prognosticating,” Lubben said.

He said the election results point to a clear strength of farming and other blue collar communities across the country. Nowhere was that more important than in key states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, Wisconsin and Ohio, where Trump won over working class voters more consistently than Hillary Clinton.

For example, in Nebraska’s 93 counties, a majority are farming-dependent, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

Lubben said when looking back 60 or so years, “you see that agriculture dominated the rural America,” something that shaped the results of elections. While agriculture may have a smaller impact on the economy in modern society than in the past, he said it’s interesting to see how much political power the farming communities in the Midwest have today.

“I think the perceived rural/urban question or rural/urban divide now is not just an agricultural versus non-agricultural divide, but just a very sort of different rural economy versus the urban economy,” Lubben said.

Whether Donald Trump will be the promised champion of the working class remains to be seen as he transitions into office and chooses his cabinet.

Chuck Schroeder, executive director of the Rural Futures Institute at UNL, said the effect of rural voters in this election was undeniable. However, it’s too early to tell whether voters will see a return on their investment.

“The specific impacts on the rural sector flowing from this election are impossible to predict at this point,” Schroeder said in an email.

The outcome of this election was important to Rural Futures Institute, which believes in backing smaller publics. Schroeder said it’s their belief that a stronger America will be built out of “people who take pride in their community, people who have a vision for their community’s future and people who take responsibility for making their community what they want it to be.”

Lubben said one stance that may have attracted corn farmers to Trump is his support of the Renewable Fuel Standard. The program sets a minimum amount of renewable fuels, like ethanol, within gasoline. Lubben said while its future is “still a bit fuzzy,” it would clearly affect the midwestern agriculture and processing sector.

“It wasn’t completely obvious what either candidate felt toward [agriculture] because they don’t have that background, [but] Trump had a team of advisors from across the country, including several Nebraskans,” he said.

Because of the resounding support Trump received from rural and other working-class workers, Schroeder said it shows that rural communities still have a strong voice in politics.

“This will likely influence political strategies going forward,” Schroeder said. “The truth is, it became clear that rural matters.”