In the 2020 presidential election, then-President Donald Trump won five times more counties across America than Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden. Still, Biden won 91 of the country’s largest 100 counties despite winning the fewest counties of any other presidential victor. Over the last several years, the rural vote has become an essential mainstay of the Republican Party. Yet, some wonder whether there could be some cracks emerging.
On Monday, October 3, POLITICO reported rural GOP voters didn’t turn out in a special election as they ordinarily do. As a result, Rep. Pat Ryan (D-NY) won in an August special election. So, is there cause for concern for Republicans looking ahead to the November 8 midterm election? Were there unique circumstances in New York resulting in the lower turnout among the GOP?
Will Rural Voters Stay Home on Election Day?
According to an analysis by POLITICO, the Supreme Court’s (SCOTUS) decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was a turning point for rural voters. According to its data, rural GOP voters weren’t as motivated to cast their votes compared to Democrats in suburbs and cities
Data suggests rural GOP voters aren’t turning out in other states, either. In New York, Nebraska, and Minnesota, POLITICO’s analysis said since June, 27% of voters in urban and suburban counties had cast a ballot. Yet, 22% showed up in rural communities.
Jurisdictions typically hold special elections to fill vacancies. Regardless of why or when they schedule an election, voter turnout is critical for any candidate. In a presidential year, approximately 60% of eligible voters cast a ballot. In a midterm election, it drops to 40%. In local elections, roughly 15% to 27% of eligible voters cast a vote. It’s challenging to find statistics for special election turnout. Still, one study from the University of Texas said special constitutional elections averaged an 8.7% turnout in the Lone Star State.
Because of the lower GOP turnout in New York, Democrats are hoping it’s a sign of things to come. If rural voters stay home, some believe it could give them a fighting chance in an election where the winds typically blow against the political party occupying the White House.
Why Would Rural GOP Voters Stay Home on Election Day?
Democratic pollster Celinda Lake told POLITICO that rural voters tend to be more religious. As such, many voted on abortion. Since they won the Supreme Court, Lake believes it helped explain the lower turnout among Republicans in the New York special election.
Former Montana Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock disagreed. He said rural voters don’t necessarily think the High Court should have overturned Roe and the decision suppressed Republicans in rural communities.
Yet, Republicans dismissed those views. Michael McAdams, a National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman, noted special elections aren’t reliable in predicting general elections. He argued they have plenty of reasons to cast a ballot, including inflation and gas prices.
Republican pollster John Couvillon added special elections might give Democrats a moral boost but said they aren’t the same as a primary election. He noted that 48% of Democrats voted in primary elections compared to 52% of Republicans.
Additionally, numerous contested New York Democratic primaries were also held the same day as the special election, which could help explain the higher turnout among Democratic urban and suburban voters over rural Republicans.
Then there’s this… the political analysis showed Democrats didn’t turn out as highly after Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization as they did in the 2018 midterm elections when they flipped the House.
So, will GOP rural voters stay home in November? We’ll see. Every vote counts. Each one needs to inform themselves, cast a ballot regardless of the type of election, and participate in America’s democracy.