As the 2016 campaign winds down growing splits are emerging in the electorate between the vote in the dense urban suburbs and rural counties.
This week’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll showed Hillary Clinton running up the margins against Donald Trump in densely-populated urban suburb counties by 32 points, 56% to 24%. In 2012 Barack Obama won those counties by 16 points.
That same survey showed Trump scoring big wins in rural American counties. In those places Trump led Clinton by 19 points, 56% to 37%. In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney won the vote out of those counties by 15 points.
Those enhanced divisions are giving rise to distinctly political atmospheres this fall with little common ground. They are not home to just different politics, but different economies, consumer lives and very different racial and ethnic compositions. There is a Clinton America in diverse, economically-thriving cities and urban suburbs. And there’s a Trump America in largely rural, white communities with lower incomes.
That’s the view from 30,000 feet. What does the divide look like on the ground? To answer that question, Meet The Press visited two places that tell the story: the rural community of Monroe County, Ohio and densely populated Arlington, Virginia.
Monroe County: Spend a few a few days driving around Monroe and you’ll find Trump signs sprouting from the lawns like mushrooms. People are requesting them at a brisk pace says local county GOP chairman Pere Seward, at far faster rate than they asked for Romney signs four years ago.
Woodsfield, Monroe’s county seat, is truly a community apart. There’s a grocery store and a few restaurants, including Traditions dedicated to the town’s history and the Ohio State Buckeyes. There are lodges for the Masons and the Moose and the VFW Hall, but residents say the nearest shopping mall is an hour away.
Driving Trump’s support here is the desire for something different, particularly economically. Monroe had the state’s highest unemployment rate in August. It has been struggling for many years, but it took an especially hard hit when the Ormet Aluminum plant closed down slowly over the last decade, shuttering for good in 2014.
Now, here in Appalachia, where coal mining is still a vital part of the economy, people believe Trump’s business background can change those long-standing problems. They find little to like in what Clinton is offering.
“Trump has an organization that has hired 60,000 people. He is a businessman. He understands jobs. He understands that’s what we need,” says Diane Burkhart, a retired teacher. “And when Hillary Clinton said she wanted to give the coal miners money when they lose their jobs, what are you talking about to a 27-year-old man? … We don’t want welfare. We don’t want handouts. We’re proud, dedicated people to the United States of America.”
The recent sexual harassment allegations against Trump seem to have little impact in the vote here, even among women. No one said the audiotapes that rocked the Trump team last week or the claims since would affect their vote.
“Guys get together and they’re going to talk, but that doesn’t mean he won’t be a good president,” says Seroba Hickman. “I can’t vote for her.”
Add it all up and you have a remarkably solid Trump vote.
Just off Main Street in Woodsfield, resident Shaun Burnett has built a sign showing all the reasons he’s backing the Republican. It’s a plywood Trump Train driven by Republican nominee pulling six cars, each labeled with an issue, from the “Supreme Court” to “Kill ISIS” to “The Wall.” In the caboose is a zombie version of “Crooked Hillary C” behind bars.
For many here anything but a Trump victory in November is not only unacceptable, but evidence that the election was probably rigged in some way. One big reason why: They simply don’t see how a Clinton win is possible. Most say they don’t see many, if any, Clinton supporters in Monroe.
Arlington, Virginia: More than 300 miles and world away in suburban Washington, the concerns are very different.
First, there is little or no talk about a stagnant economy. The unemployment rate in August here was half the national average and that fits with the larger continuing story of the community. Even at the height of the Great Recession, unemployment in Arlington was only at 4%.
And, as one might expect with a good economy, there is no shortage of ways to spend money here. There are indoor malls and outdoor malls full of high-end retailers. The streets are lined with restaurants, dozens of Starbucks and two Apple Stores.
Arlington suffers from the ultimate first world problem, according to resident Catalina Lavalle. “It’s like, a little bit too clean, you know? It’s too nice, it’s too perfect,” she says with a laugh.
But one thing you’ll have trouble finding in Arlington: signs for Donald Trump. This is Clinton America.
“For me, there’s not really any choice to be made,” says Lavalle a preschool teacher who works with immigrant children in the area. “I would never vote for Trump, I don’t support him at all. I think his comments are horrible, I think he’s a despicable person. I don’t understand how people are voting for him.”
Concerns about Trump’s position on immigration runs deep through Arlington, which is hardly a surprise considering almost a quarter of its population, 23%, was born in another country. In Monroe, less than 1% are foreign-born.
Sam Sissokho, who was born in France and who once lived in Morocco, says immigration in particular concerns him. “I have friends from all over the place. We feel like we’re in the same situation. Now we’re American citizens, but at the same time we don’t feel safe if Trump wins the race, because a lot of things could happen. We don’t know exactly what’s going to happen, but we feel in danger, for sure.”
And for many here, as in Monroe, the decision-making time in 2016 has long passed. For Colleen Cleveland, the campaign is just something to be endured for the next few weeks.
“I almost can’t turn the television on anymore, because it’s very disappointing. The stuff about Trump, I have to mute it when I see his picture on the TV,” Cleveland says.
And if Clinton doesn’t win? Cleveland has an answer. “I’m a citizen of another country as well. I’m a dual-national. So I’m seriously thinking about relocating if he is, indeed, elected.”