Democrats Crafting Messages to Win Back Rural Iowa

May 31, 2017

A recently formed nonprofit headed by Democrats is trying to get a handle on why Barack Obama supporters in rural Iowa went for Donald Trump in 2016. The group Focus on Rural America is led by former Lieutenant Governor and U.S. Senate candidate Patty Judge. A political scientist at UNI, Chris Larimer, says rural voters should lean Democratic.

“You look down the issue list as far as things they agree and disagree with in terms of collective bargaining, workers’ compensation, some of things that were done in the Iowa Legislature this year, gun rights, and they actually come down it seems more on the Democratic side,” he says.

Larimer says Democrats should be working to energize their base.

“You still have to get out the vote, you still have to get people excited about going out to vote, you still have to target reliable voters, and that’s an issue for both parties,” he says.

In a series of focus groups, the nonprofit found people who voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump last year saw both candidates as a break from the status quo. It also found rural voters had a harder time explaining Hillary Clinton's message compared with Trump’s.