In this brief, authors Dante Scala and Kenneth Johnson examine voting patterns over the last five presidential elections. They report that although rural voters and urban voters are often portrayed as polar opposites, their differences are best understood as a continuum, not a dichotomy. From the largest urban cores to the most remote rural counties, they found significant variations in voting. Hillary Clinton nearly matched Barack Obama’s 2012 performance in most urban areas. Clinton’s defeat was due, in part, to her failure to match the performance of recent Democratic Presidential nominees in less populated areas. Though many commentators argued that the faster population growth and growing diversity on the urban side of the rural–urban continuum would give Democrats a significant advantage in 2016, the election demonstrated that what happens at the rural end of the continuum remains important.

Publication Date

Summer 6-27-2017


National Issue Brief No. 124


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



Copyright 2017. Carsey School of Public Policy. These materials may be used for the purposes of research, teaching, and private study. For all other uses, contact the copyright holder.





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