Why Do Rural Whites Vote GOP?


Daniel K. Williams of the University of West Georgia explains why rural white voters, once a stronghold of the Democratic Party, started voting Republican.  Here is a taste of his piece at History News Network:

If there was one demographic group that blunted the force of the “blue wave” in this month’s midterm elections, it was rural white voters. Even as Republicans lost control of the suburban areas that had been their strongholds in the 1980s and 1990s, Republicans extended their hold over rural America. The GOP is now on the verge of uniting nearly all rural white voters into a single party – which has never happened before. 

For most of the Republican Party’s history, the notion that the GOP would become the party of rural whites was unimaginable. Rural whites were the last voter group in the South to leave the Democratic Party; they did not begin consistently voting Republican until the 1990s, nearly a generation after suburban white southerners entered the GOP. But now rural whites in both North and South are the stronghold of the GOP and the key to the party’s future. 

Why have rural whites throughout the country started voting Republican? And why have Democrats been unable to win them back, despite making an effort to do so in 2018? 

Read the rest here.

13 thoughts on “Why Do Rural Whites Vote GOP?

  1. Alex: Thanks for this honest post. First, let me say that you are not alone. I know several members of the church who believe that this is an important issue. I am, however, disheartened by the pastor who told you to keep quiet. As I noted above, this is an issue that evangelical churches must tackle, especially if we want to care for “the good” of the places where God has placed us. If we are going to engage in other social ministries as an expression of our faith, why not this one? The church needs to create a space for this conversation. Our failure to take the long view on life issues is tragic.


  2. I just want an answer to my question, how can a christian voice their concern for climate change in a way that is acceptable to you and the republicans in the church? I have been counseled by one of my pastors to just stay quiet to avoid becoming a target in the church, but I still feel alienated seeing what God has put on my heart being associated with paganism. And while I feel alone, I hope you recognize if climate change is real then I will be joined by everyone in my generation in my concern, and if there isn’t a way for us to voice our concerns that’s acceptable to republican leadership in the church then most aren’t going to be as willing to put up with the alienation as, say, someone who’s been in the church for 31 years. Can you please consider if there’s a way for me to show my concern that is acceptable to you and republicans? And if there isn’t one, I hope, for my generations sake, we can find a way.


  3. Tony: I am not sure why you are surprised, but if you think I crossed a line here, I apologize. I will say this, however:

    1. I have always believed that your positions on this blog are your own.
    2. You are correct, I do not speak on behalf of Messiah College, but people certainly develop an opinion about Messiah College based on how faculty and administrators speak in public forums. I imagine that you have an opinion about Messiah College based on what faculty (including me) have said in public forums. Similarly, people will have an opinion about a church based on the public statements of its leaders. There is no way around it. Tony, a lot of people read this blog. You have strong opinions (which I have on almost every occasion approved for posting here). As a result, people will look you up.
    4. Climate change is real and the best science suggests it is man made. (I am guessing you disagree on the latter point). The real issue at stake here is whether evangelical churches make creation care and the implications of climate change on human life a non-negotiable. If what is say is true, our church is not at that point yet. Frankly, I don’t know why. It seems like “for the welfare of the city” issue. (Jeremiah 29:7).
    5. Yes–my “disappointment in climate change apostates” IS similar to my disappointment with evangelical Trump voters.
    6. You make it sound like political questions and theological questions are somehow different. As I have argued many times before, politics requires that one is ATTENTIVE and AVAILABLE. We should be ATTENTIVE to the scientific evidence that the climate is changing and humans are to some degree responsible. We should thus be AVAILABLE to do something about it in the way we care for the creation. If we believe in the dignity of human life–the idea that our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. will suffer because of what we are doing to the environment–then to me that is a moral and Christian issue. We can debate the best plan for dealing with it, but to suggest that it is not an “urgent issue” is the equivalent of putting your head in the sand. I would hope that this would be a non-negotiable in an any evangelical congregation, but I realize this is not often the case.


  4. John: I’m a bit surprised by your comment.

    First, every opinion which I have expressed on your blog is my own. I have never claimed to be speaking on behalf of the elder board of our church. Frankly, I have no idea why you would believe that I purported to speak in some official capacity. I might as well ask you if you claim to speak on behalf of Messiah College.

    I have no idea what the individual elders happen to think about climate change (or recycling, driving SUV’s, fracking, the merits of wind and solar power or the putative benefits of carbon taxes), nor is that issue a part of the church’s constitution, bylaws or statement of faith. I suspect some or many of them disagree with my opinions. Is it really your position that individual Christians cannot hold different views about climate change? Your disappointment in climate change apostates sounds very much like your disappointment in evangelical Trump voters.

    Second, while you may be convinced that “climate change” is an urgent “life” issue, many others do not share that view, both in terms of man’s alleged contribution and the level of urgency to be ascribed to this problem. Important distinction: environmental stewardship — protecting and preserving God’s creation — is not at all the same thing as what most mean when they are discussing climate change. I believe in the Biblical mandate to be good stewards of God’s creation. But I suspect you and I strongly differ on what policies should be, or should not be, pursued in order to achieve that goal. And what actions should be taken, or not taken, by the Church. And most of those debates involve largely political, rather than theological, questions.

    I hope this clarifies my position.


  5. Tony: I am really disappointed to learn that you think the church has no responsibility to try to stop climate change or that it is not a “urgent issue.” This, to me, is a LIFE issue that Christians, as those who should care for the creation, should be concerned about. Of course you are entitled to your own views on this, but I now must ask–is this the position of the local church where you serve as an elder and that we both attend? Or is this just your personal position?


  6. Tony, since no one has said “pulling out of the Paris climate accord will hasten the cataclysmic demise of Gaia” you’re either criticizing no one, or you’re potentially characterizing anyone who shows concern about climate change this way. Assuming you aren’t criticizing no one, I am asking how a christian can show concern without being characterized as being a Gaia worshiper?

    “As to your second question, I don’t think the church has any ability to stop so-called climate change, any more than the church can stop tectonic plates from shifting.” – Tony Lucido

    “You have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Jesus Christ


  7. Alex: I don’t understand your questions. I don’t think I’ve ever said that a Christian shouldn’t show concern about climate change, if he or she believes that to be an urgent issue. (I am a Christian who does not so believe.)

    What I object to, as I’ve explained before, is the overheated (and often factually erroneous) doom-mongering and intellectual bullying engaged in by much of the GW side. (Here, again, I’m talking about many in the scientific community, who label dissenters “Deniers” and demand uncritical acceptance of policy proposals which would have terrible economic effects with very little concomitant benefit in reducing global temperature.)

    As to your second question, I don’t think the church has any ability to stop so-called climate change, any more than the church can stop tectonic plates from shifting.


  8. Tony, how should a christian show concern for climate change without their church suspecting they’re a Pagan? How is the church going to stop climate change?


  9. I will grant you that the Dems at the national level have not been good about acknowledging issues and communicating a vision that speaks to a lot of us who live in rural areas (I say “at the national level” because we have had some good D candidates at our state and local level who seemed much more “rooted” in the local issues). But I would argue that the R’s haven’t really created much of a positive message either, it is usually stated more as a backwards view: “vote for us and we will return you to the status quo of years ago, to a time when everything was great, before the liberals messed everything up.” That message works off of a mindset that says change is bad, the past is inherently preferable to the present, and the clock should be rolled back wherever possible. Which I suppose is an attractive message if you were fortunate enough to not be one of the demographics on the short end of the stick in those good ol’ days.


  10. Is the premise of this piece true? Stan Greenberg in the NYT reports that, according to the Edison exits, Democrats *cut* the GOP margin in rural areas by 13 percentage points.


  11. It’ll be interesting to see how farmers react when they realize republicans threw them and their way of life under the climate change bus.


  12. The author’s diagnosis — “fear” (which is largely John’s explanation for Evangelical Trump voters) — is wide of the mark. Are there rural voters who have been whipped into a state of perpetual anxiety over “The Other” by, cough, all-powerful Fox News and the Rush Limbaugh mind control beams? Sure. But fear exists, and is put to cynical, demagogic political uses, on both sides. Just ask some of the people who think that Trump is actually Hitler; that there is a War on Women; that pulling out of the Paris climate accord will hasten the cataclysmic demise of Gaia; that meeellions will die if [insert wicked Republic policy initiative here].

    The D party’s problem with rural voters is not ginned up fear. It is their inability to hide their disdain for the people they want to govern.

    Most progressive elites — certainly in the media, in entertainment, in higher education and at the top of the Democrat party — despise and/or condescend to rural Americans. They look down upon their religion, their traditional values, their guns, their pickups, their Walmart shopping, their flag waving, their hunting and fishing and NASCAR and dirty jobs (hat tip: Mike Rowe). This smug arrogance, this attitude of moral superiority, is a primary feature of modern progressivism. “Deplorables” and “bitter clingers” is exactly how the credentialed, urban, ‘right-side-of-history’ crowd view many in flyover country.

    Instead of trying to reach out to these people who they have systematically alienated, the D’s have doubled down on their condescension and derision. Calling anyone who voted for Trump a racist, nativist know nothing — which is received wisdom at places like the NYT and the WaPo — is not exactly a shrewd electoral strategy. Telling people who disagree with the D’s economic policies that they “don’t understand their own interests” (see, central planners know what’s best for the rubes) is not one’s approach if one is genuinely interested in winning people’s votes.

    Until rural voters believe that D candidates, certainly on the national level, respect them and take seriously their concerns — they will remain firmly in the R camp.


  13. Living in a more rural region myself, I think no small part of it is that rural areas tend to be among the most homogeneous in terms of ethnicity, culture, and (frequently) religious views. That is the type of area where fear of “the other” will have the strongest opportunity for a foothold. Most often (not always, but usually) when people are regularly exposed to other races and cultures and religions and ideologies, they learn that “the other” are not threats to be feared, but are just people who share the same goals of wanting to live and work peaceably and raise a family and make a better life for themselves. Many people who live in rural areas also are inherently mistrustful of the cosmopolitan, and are concerned that part of the intent of the cosmopolitans is to change “our way of life.”


Comments are closed.