KATHY CRAMER 2-05012015162736 (copy)

Katherine Cramer told NPR that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump taps into rural voters' resentment of not getting their fair share.

PHOTO BY MIKE DeVRIES

Earlier this year, University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Katherine Cramer published a book that detailed how changes in rural Wisconsin have altered the state's political landscape.

The rural resentment of cities and suburbs she described in "The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker" has a national connection, too, in potentially driving voters to Donald Trump.

In an NPR story, Cramer described how Trump has a connection with rural voters who feel slighted by big cities and want to see a return to the country's so-called "great" days.

"The resources, the people, the respect seem to be going somewhere else, or to other types of people, and here comes someone who says 'You're right, you're not getting your fair share. It's going to people who aren't deserving, and you vote me in and we're going to make America great again,'" Cramer told NPR.

The story showed how rural-urban splits in political polling have widened, with Democrat Hillary Clinton leading Trump by 26 points in urban areas but Republican Trump holding a 20-point lead in rural areas.

That gap also exists in Wisconsin, but Trump has less of an advantage in rural areas — only 4 points over Clinton in the latest Marquette Law School Poll. Clinton led by 40 points in urban areas and 16 points in suburban areas.

It's possible for candidates to use rural resentment to their advantage, Cramer wrote in an April column for USA Today.

"When Scott Walker ran for governor of Wisconsin in 2010, he made use of these urban vs. rural divides (even though he was at the time the county executive of Milwaukee County) by warning that 'our' roads wouldn't get funding if we accepted an $810 million dollar federal grant for high speed rail between Madison and Milwaukee," Cramer wrote. "He also talked about the overpaid public employees in 'places like' Madison."

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Trump may be able to tap into the same us-versus-them feelings in rural America, but Cramer warned that trying to paint Trump voters as angry about one specific issue is misguided.

She told NPR that the rural voters she met with had a "basket of resentments," and that one of them is just about where they're from.

"Many voters have racial and economic resentments, but the thing that surprised me in my research was how common it was for people in small towns to talk about these resentments with reference to their towns," Cramer said.

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Todd D. Milewski covers Wisconsin Badgers men's hockey and the UW Athletic Department for the Wisconsin State Journal.