In rural-urban divide, U.S. voters are worlds apart

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JANESVILLE, Wisc. (Reuters) - Semi-retired Wisconsin pig farmer John Lader does not think much of Donald Trump as a messenger, but voted for what he described as the Republican president-elect's message of change and economic hope for America.

"The last few years, there hasn't been much optimism and hope among working people in rural areas in this country," said Lader, 65, who lives in the farmland outside the southern Wisconsin city of Janesville.

Around 65 miles (105 km) to the northeast in the state's biggest city of Milwaukee, Jose Boni, who cleans offices at a local university and rents out several homes, heard a different message: Trump's plan to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border and vow to deport the estimated 11 million immigrants who are in the United States illegally, most of whom are Hispanic.

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Voter turnout at polling places across the country
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Voter turnout at polling places across the country
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 8: Horace Higgins casts his ballot at the Downtown Women's Center on Skid Row in Los Angeles, Calif., on Nov. 8, 2016. (Photo by Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 8: Camila Chavez, 3, plays as her grandmother Alexandrian Barrios, 58, votes at a polling station set-up at Watts Towers Arts Center on November 8, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 8: Maryjane Medina, 18, a first time voter, walks up to polling booth to cast her vote at a polling station set-up at Watts Towers Arts Center on November 8, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
A man votes at a polling place at a high school in McLean, Virginia during the US presidential election on November 8, 2016. / AFP / Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - November 8: Voters fill out their ballots at a polling place in Loudon County High School during the 2016 Presidential Elections in Leesburg, Va., USA on November 8 , 2016. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, USA - November 8: Voters enter the polling place in Loudon County High School during the 2016 Presidential Elections in Leesburg, Va., USA on November 8 , 2016. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, VA - NOVEMBER 08: Voters fill out their paper ballots in a polling place on Election Day November 8, 2016 in Arlington, Virginia. Americans across the nation pick their choice for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Voters cast their ballots during voting for the U.S presidential election in Manhasset, New York U.S., November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
NEW ALEXANDRIA, PA - NOVEMBER 8: Voters enter the Simpson Voting House, established in 1891, to vote in the presidential election on November 8, 2016 in New Alexandria, Pennsylvania. Americans across the nation make their choice for the next president of the United States today. (Photo by Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)
A voter stands with a stroller outside the American Legion Post #469 polling location in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. The Justice Department will deploy 500 personnel to polling stations on Election Day to help protect voters against discrimination and intimidation, down from 2012 as the result of a Supreme Court ruling that gutted part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
CONCORD, NH - NOVEMBER 08: Voters fill out their ballots at the Green Street Community Center on November 8, 2016 in Concord, New Hampshire. After a contentious campaign season, Americans go to the polls today to choose the next president of the United States. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
The early morning sun casts the shadow of a voter on a wall as he arrives at a polling location in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. The Justice Department will deploy 500 personnel to polling stations on Election Day to help protect voters against discrimination and intimidation, down from 2012 as the result of a Supreme Court ruling that gutted part of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. Photographer: Pete Marovich/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Voters wait in line to cast their ballots at a polling site in the Chelsea neighborhood of New York, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
A line of voters stretches down the street as they wait for a polling site to open in New York, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
Voters enter a polling place to cast their election ballots Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016, in Springfield, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Democratic U.S. vice presidential candidate Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) casts his ballot at the Hermitage Methodist Home polling station in Richmond, Virginia, U.S. November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A clerk tabulates ballots at a polling station just after midnight on November 8, 2016 in Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, the first voting to take place in the 2016 US presidential election. The US presidential election got underway -- on a small scale -- as seven people in a tiny New Hampshire village cast their ballots at the stroke of midnight. Dixville Notch has had the honor of launching the voting, symbolically, since 1960. Clay Smith was the first of seven people to cast their ballots as Tuesday's long awaited Election Day began. An eighth resident voted by absentee ballot. / AFP / Alice Chiche (Photo credit should read ALICE CHICHE/AFP/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - NOVEMBER 08: Voters wait in-line for casting their ballots outside a polling place on Election Day November 8, 2016 in Alexandria, Virginia. Americans across the nation are picking their choice for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - NOVEMBER 08: Voters wait in-line for casting their ballots outside a polling place on Election Day November 8, 2016 in Alexandria, Virginia. Americans across the nation are picking their choice for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
A dog walks by people voting at the Brooklyn Museum polling station in the Brooklyn borough of New York City on November 8, 2016. With an anxious world watching, Americans began voting Tuesday on whether to send the first female president or a volatile populist tycoon to the White House. The kickoff marks the end to a campaign like no other -- exhausting, often bitter -- as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump presented radically different visions of how to lead the world's greatest power. / AFP / ANGELA WEISS (Photo credit should read ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images)
A child sits behind his mom, who is filling out her form at a polling station in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)
A man takes a selfie with his child as he waits to vote at a polling station in the Brooklyn borough of New York, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/Alexander F. Yuan)
A line of voters stretches around the block while waiting to cast their ballots at a polling site in New York as One World Trade Center stands at left in the background, Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2016. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
People arrive to a poll station to vote in Arlington, Virginia on November 8, 2016. With an anxious world watching, Americans began voting Tuesday on whether to send the first female president or a volatile populist tycoon to the White House. The kickoff marks the end to a campaign like no other -- exhausting, often bitter -- as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump presented radically different visions of how to lead the world's greatest power. / AFP / Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS (Photo credit should read ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images)
ALEXANDRIA, VA - NOVEMBER 08: Voters wait in-line for casting their ballots outside a polling place on Election Day November 8, 2016 in Alexandria, Virginia. Americans across the nation are picking their choice for the next president of the United States. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
A voter casts his ballot in the U.S. election at Su Nueva Lavanderia in Chicago, Illinois, U.S., November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young
Ballot clerks Cheryl Bourassa (L) and Judy Taylor verify the ballot count before the polls open for the 2016 U.S. presidential election in Woodstock, New Hampshire, U.S. November 8, 2016. REUTERS/Mary Schwalm
Voters line up outside a polling station in Christmas, Florida on November 8, 2016. After an exhausting, wild, bitter, and sometimes sordid campaign, Americans finally began voting Tuesday for a new president: either the billionaire populist Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, seeking to become the first woman to win the White House. / AFP / Gregg Newton (Photo credit should read GREGG NEWTON/AFP/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton steps away from a voting booth after voting at Douglas G. Griffin School November 8, 2016 in Chappaqua, New York. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
People voting at Congress Elementary School in the presidential election November 8, 2016 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. / AFP / JEFF KOWALSKY (Photo credit should read JEFF KOWALSKY/AFP/Getty Images)
Former US President Bill Clinton (L) and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton (R)vote at Douglas G. Griffin School November 8, 2016 in Chappaqua, New York. / AFP / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
MANCHESTER, NH - NOVEMBER 08: An early morning voter casts her vote at the Bishop Leo E. O'Neil Youth Center on November 8, 2016 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Voters will choose between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for president, as well as important races for Congress and Senate. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
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"He doesn't care about our community or working people, he only cares about himself," said Boni, 57, an Ecuador-born U.S. citizen.

The different worlds of Lader and Boni help illustrate the rural-urban divide that was critical to the outcome of Tuesday's U.S. presidential election.

A country once defined by regional voting now is more clearly divided by the differences between rural and urban voters. The combination of a strong Trump turnout in the countryside and a weak showing by Democrat Clinton in the cities went a long way toward deciding the election.

Rural and small-town working-class white voters, who already tended to vote Republican, propelled Trump. Urban areas, where black and Hispanic voters are concentrated along with college-educated voters, already leaned toward the Democrats, but Clinton did not get the turnout from these groups that she needed. For instance, black voters did not show up in the same numbers they did for Barack Obama, the first black president, in 2008 and 2012.

Trump beat Clinton by 26 percentage points among voters who live in non-metropolitan areas, while Clinton bested Trump by about 7 percentage points in urban areas, according to the nationwide Reuters/Ipsos national Election Day poll.

'THE PERFECT SLOGAN'

Steven Schier, a political science professor at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, said rural voters "feel they've lost something, that America is moving away from them."

"Trump came up with the perfect slogan for them in 'Make America Great Again' because it hits them exactly where they live," Schier said.

Democratic presidential candidates had won in Wisconsin in every election since 1988, until Trump's victory on Tuesday.

In Wisconsin, overall turnout was lower than in the 2012 presidential election. Trump actually was a few hundred votes shy of 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney's total in the state, but Clinton was around 240,000 votes short of Obama's 2012 tally. She ended up around 24,000 votes behind Trump in the state.

"Those couple hundred thousand Democratic voters for whatever reason decided not to vote," Mordecai Lee, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. "They stayed home, and Wisconsin went Republican. I think that was the pattern around the country."

Turnout in Milwaukee's Hispanic neighborhoods was down 9 percent versus 2012, while citywide turnout in Milwaukee fell 14 percent.

Clinton took 65.6 percent in Milwaukee County, which includes the city, to Trump's 28.6 percent. But Trump won in rural counties, for example taking 59.9 percent to Clinton's 33.6 percent in Fond du Lac County in the middle of the state and 71.4 percent to 25.1 percent in Florence County in the far north.

In Milwaukee, Election Day canvassers found Trump's comments about immigrants were not enough to get people to the polls. Christine Neumann-Ortiz, director of community group Voces De La Frontera, said about 15 percent of the voters reached by the group in Milwaukee raised concerns about Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state or were undecided.

"If we reached people, we were able to convince them to vote, but I don't think we could ever have reached enough by ourselves to overcome Trump's advantage with white working-class voters," Neumann-Ortiz said.

The rural landscape was rich Trump territory, with people concerned about a slump in commodity prices and layoffs among manufacturers. Rural areas, especially in the Midwest and Northeast, have also seen a demographic shift in recent years with the arrival of Hispanic immigrants.

Demographer William Frey of the Brookings Institution think tank in Washington said census data from 2008 to 2015 showed Hispanic populations in non-metro counties in the Midwest rose 18 percent while the white population fell 9 percent.

The counties still are 84 percent white, but those voters are feeling the change, Frey said.

"They're a little bit fearful of it, and if they're being hit hard economically, that can add to it," Frey added.

Austin Arndt, a beef cattle farmer and neighbor of John Lader outside Janesville, hometown of Republican speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan, said his vote was more against Clinton than for Trump.

He said his vote was based on Trump's promise to cut taxes and repeal Obama's signature 2010 healthcare law, which has enabled millions of previously uninsured Americans to gain medical coverage but is detested by conservatives as a government overreach.

"From the social point of view as candidates, they were both terrible people," said Arndt, 33. "For me, it was all about the economics."

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