NOTE: Poll results summarized at the end of the article.
Outspoken celebrity businessman Donald Trump likes to talk, and so far farmers appear to be listening. The nationwide frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination also topped the latest Farm Futures Magazine surveys among farmers in both the U.S. and Iowa.
Farm Futures surveyed farmers from Dec. 7 to Jan. 4. That included more than 400 from Iowa, where 37% of those favoring a Republican said they would vote for Trump “if the election were held today.” Trump’s support among GOP farmers was even stronger at 39% from farmers outside Iowa, which holds its first-in-the-nation caucuses Feb. 1.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz finished second, with 29% in Iowa and 20% elsewhere among farmers. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio was third, with 12% in Iowa and elsewhere while former surgeon Ben Carson was fourth at 6% and 10% respectively.
Trump’s support grew among farmers since the magazine first surveyed growers in August, when he attracted support from around 20% of all those surveyed. That survey was topped by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who had a small lead among farmers. That wasn’t enough for Walker, who quickly dropped out of the race.
The Farm Futures survey is dominated by commercial-sized, full-time farmers with a majority of the response coming from the Midwest. If reflects thinking of the largest 10% of the more than 2 million operations officially counted as farms by USDA.
Around 85% or more of these growers typically vote for Republican candidates at the presidential level. Among those favoring Democrats, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was the clear choice. She gathered 78% of the support in Iowa, compared to 20% for Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. Outside Iowa Clinton’s margin among Democrats was a little less but still large at 71% to 22%. Vice-President Joe Biden, who is not running, was favored by 8% of Democrat farmers nationwide, but got only 2% in Iowa.
While hot-button issues like immigration and terrorism dominate the campaign among all voters, both sides of the farm aisle say the most important issue in the 2016 presidential election is “the way government in Washington operates.” Some 30% of Democrats and 32% of Republicans agreed. Another 10% of Democrats and 13% Republicans listed terrorism as the top issue.
Some 14% of Republicans and 13% of Democrats said the economy was the top issue. But the bipartisan consensus broke down on economic battle lines after that. The second most important issue in the election for Republicans, with 19%, was the federal budget deficit, tabbed by just 6% of Democrats. But 18% of Democrats said “income and wealth inequality” was their number one concern. Support for that issue from Republicans was zero.
Trump supporters seemed especially worried about the downturn in the farm economy. Some 57% of those outside Iowa said the worried about being able to pay back their debts, the most of any Republican. Trump supporters also reported slower growth, higher debt and lower income.
Trump and Carson both enjoyed support from younger farmers, though that’s a relative term in a farm demographic whose average age is 57. The average age of Clinton supporters was the oldest of any of the candidates, both nationwide and in Iowa.