I'm from a rural area and now live in a rural area of a different state. This rebuttal of the NYT article got my attention--
Politics and Elections: Turnout Didn’t Turn ‘My Blue State Red’
It’s an old saw that poor, white, rural communities are failing to vote for their own economic interests. But if neither party seems capable of improving rural conditions, are economic interests even on the ballot.
Yes, poor people do vote less than rich people. “But a lot of low income whites do vote in places like Eastern Kentucky and they generally vote for Republicans,” Abramowitz wrote in an email. “Among all white voters in recent elections, religiosity trumps social class. And by a lot. Low income whites who attend religious services regularly are staunch Republicans.”
MacGillis may think people ought to vote based on their economic status, but they don’t. Lilliana Mason, a University of Maryland political scientist, contends that people vote now to assert an identity. Voting isn’t based on interest, but on the self.
Besides, even if you were to vote solely in your economic self-interest, which party should you support?
“In many of these places, voting on the basis of economic interest doesn’t make sense because no matter who is in office, Republican or Democrat, their local economies don’t improve,” writes James Gimpel, another Maryland political scientist.
“How long will it take you to stop voting on the basis of economic assessments if nothing ever improves for you on the economic front?” Gimpel continues. “Probably not very long. So people decide to cast their votes on the basis of impressions and issues unrelated to economic standing. There is nothing strange or unusual about it.”
Explained this way, I get it. And it's not going to be easy to fix so far as I can see. The Democratic strongholds tend to be urban, few politicians really understand rural problems (and those populations are dwindling so not particularly targeted), and proposals which might excite rural residents will likely be vigorously opposed by either campaign contributors, BigAg, etc.