Unlike most of the pundits and political writers who get paid to talk about the “white working class” and/or red states, I’m actually from a rural area in a red state and feel uniquely qualified to answer the question on everyone’s minds: “Why are people in rural areas voting Republican?”
1. Because they falsely believe Democrats are for entitlements that don’t affect them when in reality blue states pay more in federal taxes than red states. The ten poorest states in America are almost exclusively red states that do not pay hardly anything in federal taxes, being subsidized by the Northeast and West Coast.
In addition, a significantly higher percentage of rural Americans use food stamps and are on disability/welfare, but they don’t believe this because they have swallowed the false narrative that cities are full of welfare bums while rural Americans are “hard living” manly men working on railroads and farms and such that hasn’t actually been the case for decades (less than 2% of America works in agriculture and many factories have either been off-shored completely or moved closer to cities that have the shipping ports and/or tech they need). In cities, most people are working 50 hours a week for apartments that aren’t as big as a trailer.
2. Demographics…Except for a few counties in the Southeast, rural areas are overwhelmingly white while black and Asian people tend to gravitate towards cities. Even when you look at Southern states where black people do make up the majority of a rural county, it has been so ridiculously gerrymandered that you might see black areas in counties that barely touch cut and pasted together to get one black congressional representative for an area that really should be 2 or 3, like Terri Sewell in Alabama.
3. 80% of people in America live in a city or within 5 miles of one. If red and purple states were not gerrymandered within an inch of their life by the Republicans, you would not notice the huge power imbalance between cities and rural areas where rural areas typically get more of a vote.
4. Most people in rural areas don’t vote at all…There’s an enormous turn-out (and voter disenfranchisement) problem in most red and purple states. You may have heard Southern states described as “not red states, but non-voting blue states.” When I lived in a rural area, most races are done in “mid-term” or “off year” elections like 2018 instead of 2016, and if 25% of people who could vote actually did, that was considered excellent turn-out.
5. Lots more “single issue” voters…In cities, I meet very, very few “single issue” voters as life is much more complex and faster paced, and you can’t afford to focus on one issue to the detriment of all others because you have a laundry list of concerns and cost of living means people are constantly trying not to go broke. Lots of rural voters (who have generally lower cost of living) might exclusively care about abortion or guns or immigration, and those people tend to be conservative.
6. And yes, there is a slightly “left behind” feeling. When you see Democratic candidates in cities talking about “gig” economy this or “digital” that…that doesn’t really mean squat to rural people because tech companies aren’t considering those areas for jobs. And some of the biggest employers? Something related to the military (which some liberals want to reduce) or hospitals—which some liberals want to essentially nationalize. The single biggest, best-paying employer in the rural county I lived in was the hospital—it was massive, and that’s probably true for a lot of rural towns where something like healthcare is very hard to “digitize” and leave rural people behind (replacing retail stores with Amazon and local newspapers with sites like Vox has been a disaster for rural areas), and they’re not really looking forward to changing that.