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Rural-Urban divide widening in Iowa, election results show

Published: Nov. 4, 2020 at 3:44 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The 2020 election returns show a widening gap politically between rural and urban parts of Iowa and is a primary reason Iowa shifted deeper red Tuesday night.

A county-by-county breakdown of Iowa’s Presidential vote in 2020 compared to 2016 provides the best example. Vice President Joe Biden performed better than Hillary Clinton in urban counties in Iowa. Linn County, for example, went for Biden by 14-points over Trump in 2020 compared to a 9-point advantage for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Johnson County followed a similar trend with 70-percent going for Biden in 2020 compared to 66-percent for Clinton in 2016.

President Trump, however, outperformed his 2016 numbers is nearly all rural counties. In 2016, Delaware County went for Trump with 62-percent of the vote. This year, Trump carried 67-percent of the Delaware County voters. Buchanan County supported Trump with 59-percent of the vote in 2020 compared to 54-percent in 2016.

That rural divide also influenced Iowa’s Congressional Races.

In Iowa’s First District, Democrat Abby Finkenauer won Dubuque County by less than 300 votes. She carried that same county by about 3,000 votes when she won in 2018. Winneshiek County also flipped from supporting Finkenauer in 2018 to backing Republican Ashley Hinson in 2018. Hinson was also able to carry bigger margins of support in more rural counties. In Buchanan County, Hinson had a 16-point advantage compared to the 3-point edge Rod Blum had there in 2016. Poweshiek County went from a 1-percent Republican advantage in 2018 to an 11-point advantage for Hinson. Finkenauer could not extend her advantage in Linn and Black Hawk Counties by enough to offset that larger rural gap.

Iowa’s Second District, where incumbent-Democrat Dave Loebsack is retiring, saw even more extreme shifts. Cedar County, Muscatine County, Lee County, Des Moines County and Wapello County all flipped from supporting Loebsack in 2018 to backing Republican Mariannette Miller-Meeks this year. Wapello County, Miller-Meeks home county, saw the biggest flip. It backed Dave Loebsack in 2018 by a 6-point margin but went for Miller-Meeks by an 18-point gap this year. Hart, meanwhile, was not able to maintain the same margins Loebsack held in the urban centers of Johnson and Scott Counties.

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