U.S. farmers have a lot of choices to make in the coming weeks and months, not the least of which is adding their vote to presidential and other political races Nov. 8.
The 2016 DTN/The Progressive Farmer Pulse of Rural America poll finds most, but not a majority of, respondents stand with recent history in supporting the Republican presidential nominee. Yet it's far from a slam dunk, given an overall restless electorate.
Forty-six percent of Pulse of Rural America respondents indicate they will vote for Trump. Twenty-four percent plan to vote for Clinton. Seven percent will vote for the Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and 3% for Green Party candidate Jill Stein. A fifth of all respondents said they were unsure of their choice or stated a preference for "none of the above."
"I'm not happy about our choices," said Matthew Efird, who along with his father, Russel, grows almonds, walnuts, and grapes in California's Central Valley. "Maybe a shake-up is what we need."
Farming and rural residents are highly motivated to vote. According to the Pulse of Rural America poll, 84% say they definitely will, or are very like to, vote in the Tuesday, Nov. 8, national elections. Only 6% of those surveyed plan to stay home.
This poll -- the third DTN/The Progressive Farmer presidential-year survey going back to 2008 -- was conducted by Zogby Analytics, Utica, New York. Full results will be presented in the November and December 2016 issue of The Progressive Farmer and in stories on DTN/PF digital products. The results are drawn from 1,647 completed surveys by rural and farming adults, with a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points. The telephone survey was conducted Aug. 18 through Sept. 6.
Four regions are represented in the survey -- 26% live in the West, 21% in the East, 23% in the South and 30% in a Great Lakes state. Forty-two percent farm or have immediate family who farms.
Gary Coleman raises cattle outside Anderson, South Carolina. He's going to vote for Clinton. "I don't see how she could hurt us," Coleman said. "I don't see her addressing concerns about agriculture, but she's not saying ridiculous things, and she's not focused on building walls."
DOWN BALLOT VOTES
Coleman is taking a hard look at South Carolina's U.S. Senate and House races. Senate incumbent Tim Scott (R) is facing Thomas Dixon (D), Bill Bledsoe (Libertarian/Constitution), and Rebel Scarborough (American). Six of the state's House seats are now Republican, and one is Democratic.
Of the Pulse of Rural America survey respondents, 49% are more likely to support Republican U.S. House and Senate candidates. Twenty-seven percent are more likely to support Democratic U.S. House and Senate candidates. But a large group, 24%, say they are unsure or stated a preference for none of the above.
Coleman is focused on taxes, less on party. "There are a lot of farmers who pay a lot of taxes, and I don't see that money coming back to the farming community," he said.
NOT WELL SPENT
Only 6% of respondents to the DTN/The Progressive Farmer poll strongly agree that taxes are well spent. Twenty-eight percent strongly disagree with that statement.
"I pay taxes that are too high for what I get," said Joel Lange, of Jefferson, Iowa. Lange was a supporter of Ted Cruz during the Iowa caucuses. He will now vote for Trump, although not enthusiastically. "I have to vote for somebody," said Lange, a registered Republican.
He also is unhappy with government intrusion into agriculture. "Other farmers may not like to hear this, but I think the less government is involved, the better," he said.
The DTN/The Progressive Farmer survey finds that 45% of respondents strongly disagree or somewhat disagree that the nation's health-care act improved their ability to purchase health insurance. A quarter of those surveyed said the law has improved their ability to buy insurance, while 25% of respondents have a private health insurance policy.
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