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Poll highlights policies rural Arizona voters value

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Alex Gonzalez

(Arizona News Connection) The state of Arizona and its voters have played a critical role in past elections, which include the voices of rural voters in the Grand Canyon State. 

new poll by the Center for Rural Strategies and Lake Research Partners asked people in rural America how they feel about their role in the economy and the perception of modern politics. 

Celinda Lake, president of Lake Research Partners, said political polarization among rural voters is increasing, and has influenced perceptions of the economy.

"They don't think the economy is working well for them, and Republicans are really pessimistic about the economy," Lake said. "Democrats more optimistic; even they are split. There is a lot of polarization that started very early, and it's because people aren't hearing the kind of dialogue that would be useful in rural areas." 

Lake added it's clear rural voters are what she describes as "disgusted" with Washington, which could mean there is an untapped opportunity to localize issues and policies that can resonate with rural Arizona voters. She says that can be achieved by speaking through a lens of freedom and family, the top two values for rural Americans. 

Lake added that policies surrounding creating jobs, lowering prescription drug and food costs and closing loopholes for wealthy corporations were found to be extremely important.

Dee Davis, president of the Center for Rural Strategies, said many rural Americans identify themselves by the work they do. He noted that, as those occupations are replaced by technology or move overseas, many are left feeling forgotten and neglected. 

Despite the majority of rural voters identifying as Republican, Davis said he encourages politicians and policymakers across the political spectrum to address their constituents using a holistic, long-term approach. The survey found close to 40% of rural, blue-collar voters could be swayed by certain policy proposals and messaging.

"Talk to people not in the short-term, 'I'm going to tell you this to get your vote tomorrow,' but in a longer kind of way to create a discourse about the future of rural America and have people participate in that," Davis said. 

The poll found President Joe Biden is viewed 18 points more unfavorably than former President Donald Trump, which means the Democratic Party has its work cut out to get those rural swing voters in Arizona.