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Poll: Bush Rural Support Fades in Key States

A new poll shows President Bush losing support in 17 so-called "battleground" states among a key constituency: rural voters. Those states, which Mr. Bush carried in 2000 thanks to overwhelming support in rural counties, are considered too close to call in the November presidential election. Mr. Bush appears set to win the rural vote again, but by a less substantial margin -- and as NPR's Howard Berkes reports, that could make the difference in a tight election.

Respondents contacted by NPR who said they voted for Mr. Bush in 2000 cited the economy and the Iraq war as reasons they're looking to change their vote in November.

Respondents in the Center for Rural Strategies poll give the president a nine-point lead over Democrat John Kerry in rural portions of the battleground states. Mr. Bush was favored by 51 percent of respondents, compared to 42 percent for Kerry. But the same people said they gave candidate Bush a margin twice as big against his Democratic rival four years ago -- 55 percent said that they voted for Bush, 37 percent for Al Gore. (In the final election results from 2000, Bush won 55.5 percent of the vote in rural counties in the 17 states, while Gore captured 44.5 percent.)

Close to half of the respondents, 48 percent, say the nation is on the wrong track, while 43 percent say it's heading in the right direction.

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Howard Berkes is a correspondent for the NPR Investigations Unit.