In Tuesday’s election, rural voters moved slightly toward Democratic candidates in two Senate battleground states compared to the presidential race in 2020, but the change was definitive only in Pennsylvania.
Results in three other key states were too close to call as of Wednesday morning.
In Pennsylvania, a modest but consistent improvement among rural voters was part of Democrat John Fetterman’s formula for victory over Republican Mehmet Oz.
Statewide, Fetterman won 50.4% of the vote to Oz’s 47.2%. Fetterman’s margin of 3.2 points was more than twice Joe Biden’s margin of victory there in 2020.
Pennsylvania, 2020 Versus 2022
In rural areas, Oz beat Fetterman handily, 68% to 29%. But Fetterman performed 2.4 points better in rural Pennsylvania than President Joe Biden did in 2020. And Fetterman’s percentage-point increase, which came from managing turnout compared to 2020, provided the Democratic candidate with his largest gain in any county type in the Daily Yonder’s categorization system.
Because midterm elections attract fewer voters than presidential elections, managing the drop in turnout is key to victory. Statewide Fetterman received about 75% of the votes that Biden did in 2020, whereas Oz garnered only about 72% of the votes that Trump did in 2020.
The turnout gap was biggest among rural voters. Here, Fetterman received 83% of the votes that Biden did in 2020, while Oz garnered only 73% of the 2020 Trump vote. The 10-point difference resulted in a net gain of mo
re than 110,000 votes for Fetterman, relative to 2020’s presidential election. Since Fetterman won the statewide contest by about 82,000 votes, the relative difference in rural voters from 2020 to 2022 was definitive.
In Ohio, Tim Ryan, the Democrat running for the open Senate seat, also performed a bit better with rural voters than Biden did in 2020. Republican J.D. Vance performed a bit worse with rural voters than Trump did in 2020 but still won the statewide race by more than 6 points.
Ohio, 2020 Versus 2022
Vance picked up 69.5% of the rural vote in Ohio, compared to Trump’s 70.8% in 2020. Ryan earned 30.5% of the rural vote, an improvement of nearly 3 points compared to Biden’s performance in 2020.
Vance performed slightly better than Trump did in 2020 in the central counties of both major and medium-sized metropolitan areas and small metropolitan areas.
Democrat Ryan had smaller drops in turnout in most parts of the state than Vance did compared to 2020. But the advantage was not big enough to make a difference in the bottom-line results.
Vote totals are partial and may change slightly but not enough to affect bottom-line results.
Major metropolitan areas have populations of 1 million or more.
Medium metropolitan areas have populations of 250,000 to under 1 million.
Small metro areas have populations from 50,000 to under 250,000.
Nonmetro areas, which is how this story defines rural, are not part of a metropolitan statistical area, per the Office of Management and Budget 2013.