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October 24, 2016

Will Americans living in poor rural areas vote?

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Essential question

Why does a citizen’s wealth, education and job status affect whether they are likely to vote or not?


Some poorer residents of rural America say their voices are not being heard as part of the national political dialogue and the presidential election.

In the town of Wilkesboro, North Carolina, part of the Appalachian Mountain region, median income has plunged 30 percent since the year 2000. Nearly one quarter of the residents live in poverty.

“I don’t think politicians realize how [for] many of us, this is the face of poverty,” said Darla Dietz, a Wilkesboro resident.

It wasn’t always this way. Right after World War Two, Wilkesboro was the county seat and a prosperous mountain town with bustling shops, a booming furniture industry and thriving agriculture. Now, the poultry industry is one of the few remaining large employers.

Rural Americans living in poverty vote less for reasons including a lack of transportation, health care needs and feeling ignored by politicians.

“If we had a bunch of low-income Americans in this room, they would say, why bother to vote? They would say, with real justice, neither of these parties pays any attention to the likes of me,” said Gene Nichol, a professor at University of North Carolina School of Law.

The gap between voters and nonvoters breaks down strongly along class lines. In the 2012 presidential election, 80.2 percent of those making more than $150,000 voted, but only 46.9 percent of those making less than $10,000 voted.


Key terms

Appalachia —  a cultural region in the Eastern United States that stretches from the Southern Tier of New York to northern Alabama, Mississippi and Georgia

social security — any government system that provides monetary assistance to people with an inadequate or no income

Warm up questions (before watching the video)
  1. How much do jobs and the economy matter in this election?
  2. What do you know about the history and demographics of the Appalachian Mountain region in the U.S.?
  3. Why might some Americans feel their interests are not important to politicians?
Critical thinking questions (after watching the video)
  1. Whether or not you are currently eligible to vote, do you feel that either presidential candidate in this election represents your interests as a voter? If not, why?
  2. How is living in poverty in a rural area different from living in an urban area?
  3. What can politicians do to make more Americans feel like the government represents them?
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