One of the most striking differences that I've noticed between a place like Fresno and a place like San Francisco is the emphasis on different sorts of jobs, and what value those livings hold. To be a farmer in Fresno is a badge of honor, likely passed down for several generations. To be an up-and-coming tech startup company in San Francisco is, similarly, a badge of honor, but with a clear twist: the very newness and inventiveness of such a career is what makes it appealing to an urbanite, while the converse is true for ruralities. That is not, of course, to say there are never exceptions--people in San Francisco need skilled mechanics just like people in Fresno do. However, the distinction between resource-based jobs, which we know to be quickly depleting, and "skilled" jobs like tech or finance, is certainly a significant recognizable characteristic of the rural urban divide.
The question remains: what is the link between workforce type and political habit? The author of the SF Chronicle article posits,
"Those in rural and small-town America — who were more likely to pump their own water, to worry about their septic tank and to fret whether the weather will allow them to profit or lose money — think, talk and vote differently from those who expect the tap always to flow, the toilet to flush regularly and to get paid on time, rain or shine, drought or flood."
As someone raised among a largely farming-dependent workforce, this theory makes sense to me. Those preoccupied with labor-intensive work from sunup to sundown are, naturally, very concerned about things that affect their daily livelihood, which can range from water storage management to increased regulation of livestock housing (see: the debate over how much cage space a chicken really needs). A farmer in the Central Valley understandably may grow frustrated when beset by the feeling that the people making the laws don't understand his day-to-day needs. A farmer may feel the pressure of eking out a day to day living, wholly dependent on if he can afford his water allotment that year based on the projected price his almonds will fetch at market, while a Facebook software engineer may have the luxury of worrying about the homeless problem in San Francisco, and whether his local nature preserve will be well-maintained with tax funds this year.
In addition, statistics support the fact that rural Americans are more religious than their urban counterparts. This frequently manifests politically in voting behaviors on things like abortion and same-sex marriage.
Taken together, differences in labor types and religious prevalence are unquestionably a huge factor when considering the voting behaviors of rural America. As a fairly recent urban transplant, I find myself somewhat sympathetic to both points of view. I understand the struggle and frustration that a rural laborer faces in California, feeling that his day-to-day needs go unmet while "big government" focuses on things that largely benefit the urban centers of the state. I also understand the importance of looking towards the bigger picture with regards to things like social welfare programs and environmental protection (again, not to say that those opinions are inherently incompatible, just a reflection of larger general trends). The (potentially unanswerable) question thus becomes, how do we synthesize this understanding into a solution moving forward?