Rural voters “in the trenches” on climate, suspicious of Biden

NEW YORK – Drought in California meant Raquel Krach, a rice farmer and graduate student in the Sacramento Valley, planted very little. Using groundwater, she and her husband have planted 75 acres this year to sustain their markets. The remainder of the 200 acres she normally sows went empty due to insufficient water supplies.

For the 53-year-old Democrat it is clear that climate change is responsible. But she says the idea is deeply divisive in her community.

“Our connections with our neighbors are quite limited because our views are so different. Climate change is usually an issue that we don’t even address because we have such different views,” Krach said.

The effects of climate change affected communities across the country, including Krachs, but voters in rural communities are least likely to feel that Washington is on their side on this issue. Rural Americans and experts point out that there is a disconnect between the way world leaders talk about climate change and the way those communities experience it.

AP VoteCasta comprehensive overview of the 2022 halftime Voters, shows clear differences between urban and rural communities in voting sentiment towards the President Joe Biden Coping with the climate and whether climate change is affecting their communities.

About half of voters across the country approve of the president’s handling of the issue, despite the passage of the Anti-Inflation Act This summer, that meant historic investments aimed at reducing the emissions that cause climate change. While about 6 in 10 urban voters agree, the figure drops to about half for suburban voters and about 4 in 10 for rural voters.

The urban-rural divide exists within the Republican Party, showing that these differences are not just caused by a partisan division between blue cities and redder rural areas. While 27% of urban Republicans support Biden’s climate leadership, just 14% of small-town and rural Republicans say the same, VoteCast showed.

Sarah Jaynes, executive director of the Rural Democracy Initiative, which funds groups supporting progressive policies in rural areas, suggested that the pervasive urban-rural divide has a lot to do with news issues.

“People in rural areas and small towns are less likely to believe that the Democrats are fighting for people like them, so there’s a party trust issue,” Jaynes said. “I think there’s a problem where people don’t want to signal that they’re supporting Democrats in rural communities right now.”

VoteCast also shows that despite nationwide climate crises – out hurricanes to forest fires droughts – Voters have varying degrees of concern about whether climate change is in their backyards. About three-quarters of urban voters are at least somewhat concerned about the impact of climate change in their communities, compared with about 6 in 10 suburban voters and about half of voters in small towns and rural areas.

This difference cannot necessarily be explained by a lack of belief in climate change in rural communities. An AP-NORC poll in September found majorities across all community types say climate change is happening.

“If you talk about the climate in general, rural people can think, ‘Well, do you really care about me? Are you talking about me?’” Jaynes said. “If you ask them, ‘Are you afraid of flooding? Are you worried about the water crisis? Are you concerned about the impact of extreme weather conditions?’ You’ll hear a lot more positively if you meet them where they are.”

In Krach’s community, she said: “Everyone is very aware that there is no water and that there is a drought. Whether they attribute this to climate change varies.”

At the national level, extreme weather has caused agriculture to suffer major losses. Krach’s experience is not unique: The prolonged drought in California caused Colusa and Glenn counties’ rice acreage to decline by at least three-quarters. according to an analysis by UC Davis agricultural economist Aaron Smith. In Texas, a drought and heat wave meant nearly 70% of the cotton crop is grown likely to be abandoned. In Georgia, the farmers started growing citrus fruitsas the weather warms up and becomes increasingly unsustainable for the peach.

Johnathan Hladik, policy director of the Center for Rural Affairs in Nebraska, an organization that focuses on rural community development, including environmental protection, said the nature of much of the work of rural people makes it difficult to look at the global scale — how in agriculture.

“Farmers experience climate change very differently than many city dwellers. It’s in every part of their work. It’s almost like a daily struggle. You’re in the trenches every day and it’s really hard to step back and look at it on a big scale,” he said.

Olivia Staudt, a 20-year-old junior at Iowa State University, grew up on a fourth-generation corn, bean, and row crop farm in Marble Rock, Iowa. The Republican said another factor contributing to the climate divide is that some rural residents think urban communities disproportionately blame them for climate problems without looking in the mirror.

“There always has to be a scapegoat, and it feels like rural communities are that for a lot of these urban areas,” Staudt said. “But nobody has all the blame or creates all the problems.”

Staudt knows firsthand how deeply farming communities think about natural resources—her family not only uses the land, they conserve it for the future, and that connection to the earth can be further away for city dwellers. When she sees big new developments in cities and smog, coupled with the perception that agriculture is being blamed for climate change, she feels uncomfortable.

Findings are complicated by a lack of knowledge about Biden’s climate action. September AP-NORC survey found that about 6 in 10 US adults said they knew little to nothing about the Inflation Reduction Act — a law widely heralded as the largest investment in climate spending in history.

The IRA, which Biden signed into law in August, included about $375 billion in climate protection investments over 10 years. Among other things, the legislation provides some $260 billion in renewable energy tax credits and offers households consumer rebates for heat pumps and solar panels, and up to $7,500 in credits for electric vehicles.

Some elements of the law are also aimed at the agricultural sector. According to the US Department of AgricultureThe law provides $20 billion for departmental conservation programs, $3 billion in relief for distressed USDA borrowers whose businesses are at financial risk, and $2 billion in financial assistance for farmers living in have been discriminated against in USDA lending programs in the past.


Follow AP’s coverage of the 2022 midterm election at For more details on the AP VoteCast methodology, visit

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Sarah Y. Kim

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