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Wisconsin Watch partners with Gigafact to produce fact briefs — bite-sized fact checks of trending claims. Read our methodology to learn how we check claims.


Voting data from rural Wisconsin counties since 2004 show that those areas have trended to the right in the ensuing years.

In 2020, the state’s small rural counties voted for Republican presidential candidate George W. Bush by an aggregate of five percentage points. In 2020, those same counties voted for Republican President Donald Trump by an aggregate of 20 percentage points. 

Data from elections leading up to 2020 — especially on the state and national levels — show how every two years, rural parts of the state have swung further to the right. Barack Obama won 59 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties in 2008, compared to Hillary Clinton’s 12 in 2016 and Joe Biden’s 14 in 2020.

However, analysts say that statewide, the uptick in Republican votes in rural Wisconsin has been roughly offset in recent elections by decreasing vote shares in the suburban Waukesha and Ozaukee counties — and large Democratic margins in the urban Dane and Milwaukee counties.


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Tale of two toss-up elections 16 years apart: The new 50/50 Wisconsin isn’t the same as the old 50/50 Wisconsin

CNN: Wisconsin Democrats look for do-over with rural voters after Trump-era shellacking

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: The ‘WOW’ counties suburbs are diverging politically, as some get redder and others grow increasingly purple

American Prospect: The rural turnaround

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Jacob Alabab-Moser joined as Wisconsin Watch’s fact checker in September 2022, as part of the effort by The Gigafact Project in partnership with different state-level news outlets to combat misinformation in the 2022 midterm elections. Jacob has several years of experience as a fact checker and research assistant at a variety of organizations, including at The Gigafact Project. He holds a BA from Brown University and is pursuing a MSc from the London School of Economics and Political Science.