By Mike O'Brien, AEM Director, Public Affairs
Though the past seven months have been a tumultuous period in Washington, rural America continues to express support for some of President Trump’s core proposals.
Recent polling – including some by AEM – shows that the president’s efforts to advance a series of policies important to farming and manufacturing communities, including infrastructure investment and workforce development, remain broadly popular in rural parts of the United States.
A new Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation poll offered a glimpse into how rural communities – which helped form the backbone of Trump’s 2016 election victory – view the state of the economy, and some of the president’s top proposals. A majority of Americans in rural communities (53 percent) said that the area in which they live had experienced a loss of farming, manufacturing or other factory jobs over the last decade. And 56 percent of those same respondents said their community had yet to recover. Those numbers in part explain the urban-rural economic disconnect in America, and underscore why many rural voters are now looking to Trump to deliver on jobs for their towns.
When it comes to addressing the situation, rural voters said that President Trump should look first to infrastructure. A whopping 93 percent of rural Americans said investment in infrastructure projects were important for improving the job situation in their community. That’s of little surprise given the findings of a new report by TRIP (The Road Information Program), which underscores the dire road conditions across rural America. Over a third of America’s rural roads – 36 percent – are rated as being in poor or mediocre condition.
A poll released earlier this month by AEM’s Infrastructure Vision 2050 initiative offered further insight onto how rural America views policy. The poll found that in an era when city residents and rural Americans often face sharp political and cultural differences, infrastructure is an issue that unites all communities. Over 80 percent of Americans say that investing in infrastructure will improve their quality of life, and create jobs in their community. Those numbers are consistent between cities, suburbs, and towns and rural areas.
But infrastructure doesn’t stop at road and bridge construction; it involves priorities like expanding rural broadband as well. That type of comprehensive infrastructure plan could further enable how customers use farm equipment in their work.
At the same time, rural voters express support for tax and regulatory relief. The Trump administration has aggressively worked to roll back and streamline regulations, while Congress has teed up tax reform for consideration later this year. Proposals to eliminate the estate tax and reform how small business owners file their taxes could offer significant benefits to family farmers and small-to-midsize manufacturing businesses.
At the same time, AEM and other commodity groups have warned the administration against exiting our existing trade agreements altogether. And so far, the president has heeded this advice, and has instead focused on renegotiating agreements like NAFTA rather than ending it. A recent POLITICO article showed how withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership also led to missed opportunities for many export-driven farm industries.
In short, the success of President Trump’s agenda this year hinges in part on the rural voters who supported his campaign. And if the president can notch some victories on infrastructure and taxes while avoiding missteps on trade and issues like the Renewable Fuel Standard, he may be able to count on continued support from rural communities – at a time when he most needs their backing.