Barack Obama’s speech at a fundraiser in San Francisco caused a lot of controversy for portraying rural Americans as “bitter” and “clinging” to guns and religion. However, the implicit argument that rural American are favoring their social interests over their economic interests, and subsequently voting for Republican presidential candidates seems to be taken as factually correct.
Let’s look at the data. Using the American National Election study, I plot Republican vote share by presidential election year from 1952 to 2000 for poor and rich rural voters.
We can see a steady decline of Republican support among rural poor voters starting in 1972. Even with a big jump in 2000, support for the Republican presidential candidate was less than 50 percent. So, Obama, it looks like poor rural Americans have no problem voting for Democrats.