Rhiannon Hampson, the USDA’s lead rural development officer in Maine, has seen significant improvements in the state’s infrastructure. However, it recognizes that many people, especially those living in rural areas, may not be aware of these changes. This lack of connectivity poses a challenge for President Joe Biden, who is seeking to win back the support of rural Americans in the upcoming 2024 election.
Rural areas have historically experienced economic decline and job loss, leading to frustrations among older, mostly white voters. They have become skeptical of government spending and divided on social issues, making it difficult for Biden to gain their trust.
In the 2020 election, Donald Trump expanded his lead among rural voters, gaining 65% of their support. Even in the 2022 midterms, Republican candidates got 69% of the rural vote. Maine’s rural 2nd District, which once supported Barack Obama, is now dominated by Trump voters. This reflects a national trend.
Recent studies have highlighted the divide between rural and urban areas, showing that job growth has occurred primarily in urban areas over the past two decades. Trump and other Republicans have capitalized on the anger felt by rural Americans toward urban “elites,” who they see as imposing their views on education, gun control and gender identity.
To win over rural voters, Biden’s campaign plans to focus on key states like North Carolina, Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where rural voters make up a significant portion of the electorate. Democratic officials sought to highlight significant federal funding allocated to rural areas during the Biden administration. This includes funding for health care, clean energy agriculture, rural electrification, and clean energy projects.
However, political veterans doubt that these investments will translate into immediate changes in voting patterns. John Piotti, CEO of the American Farmland Trust and a former Democrat in the Maine state legislature, believes that while the Biden administration is trying to support America’s countryside, it may take a while to see the impact shown in the election results.
One of the challenges is the educational gap between rural and urban areas. Rural Americans are less likely to have a college degree, which contributes to the voting divide. In 2022, voters with a college degree favored Democratic candidates, while rural areas leaned Republican.
While some of Biden’s policies, such as health care and veterans’ benefits, have bipartisan support from voters, rural Americans are not giving him credit right now. A Reuters/Ipsos poll found that 60% of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of inflation, and many of those who voted for him in 2020 are unsure whether they will do so again.
To successfully win in rural America, Biden may need to focus on engaging voters in remote suburban areas, as they may be more receptive to the Democratic message. However, the challenge remains to bridge the gap between rural and urban areas and address the concerns and priorities of rural voters.
– Rural areas: Regions characterized by low population density and a low level of industrialization compared to urban areas.
– Infrastructure: The basic physical and organizational structures and facilities necessary for the functioning of a society, such as transportation systems, communication networks and public buildings.