Rural areas of the U.S. have traditionally elected Republican candidates, but this election the trend may reverse. A new Center for Rural Strategies indicates found that rural voters in contested House and Senate races are favoring Democratic candidates leading into next month's elections.
Among participating voters in districts with contested House of Representatives races, 52% favored Democratic candidates versus 39% in favor of the Republican candidate. In the Center for Rural Strategies' September poll of the same areas, participants were split evenly between parties.
The margin remains slim in contested Senate races, with rural voters favoring Democratic candidates by 4%. The figure reverses a 4 point Republican lead in the September poll, but remains within the 5.5% margin of error.
The war in Iraq and the economy were the most prevalent concerns among respondents, with a respective 38% and 25% citing each as a top issue.
Anna Greenberg, a Democratic analyst for the poll, says that issues have lined up right for Democrats in rural areas. "There has been a perfect storm of issues that have led rural voters toward Democratic candidates - the war in Iraq, economic struggle in rural communities and a muddling of 'moral values' because of the Mark Foley scandal."
For about three quarters of voters in this poll, however, the Mark Foley scandal did not affect which party they favored. Over half say that moral issues did not sway their decision.
Whatever the reasons, the poll suggests Republicans have reason to worry come Election Day, Republican strategist and poll consultant Bill Greener says. "Republican success has relied on strong support from rural voters, and this survey indicates we don't have that support today. We have to do better if we are going to reach our objectives on Election Day."
The poll was conducted among 500 likely voters living in rural areas within contested congressional and Senate races, from Oct. 22-24.