Saturday, October 22, 2022

The impact of resentment on how rural folks vote

Kal Munis and Nicholas Jacobs wrote for Monkeycage Blog for the Washington Post a few days ago under the headline, "Why Resentful Rural Americans Vote Republican."  
As the midterms approach, political observers are once again talking about the widening divide between urban and rural voters. Over the past 25 years, rural areas have increasingly voted Republican while cities have increasingly voted Democratic — a dividing line that has replaced the North/South divide as the nation’s biggest source of political friction. That divide will influence which party takes control of Congress in January.

But why are rural and urban voters so sharply divided? Some scholars and pundits argue that it comes down to who lives where: that the disproportionately White, older, more religious, less affluent and less highly educated voters who live in rural areas are more likely to hold socially conservative views generally championed by Republicans. Meanwhile, urban areas are filled with younger, more racially diverse, more highly educated and more affluent people who hold the more socially liberal views generally championed by Democrats.

While all that matters, our new research shows that place itself also matters. Unlike Republican voters in suburbs and the cities, rural voters care about what we might call “geographic inequity” — the idea that rural areas receive less than their fair share from the government, are ignored by politicians, and are mocked and derided in popular culture. Without these beliefs, the urban-rural political divide would not be as vast as it is today.

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Anyone who has spent time studying rural communities knows that rural residents hold deep and pervasive grievances about how they’re viewed. That can be resentment about their unfair treatment by the government, dismissive comments from politicians, or media portrayals that either simplify country life and its problems or flat-out ignore “flyover country.” Much of the scholarship about these attitudes has focused on a relatively small number of communities in a handful of states, including Wisconsin and Louisiana. Our research has involved numerous national surveys — and we find that rural beliefs about geographic inequity, or what we and others call rural resentment, are widespread across the country.

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In November 2020, we found that large majorities of rural respondents to our survey reported feeling resentment across all three areas. Asked whether rural communities do not receive their fair share of government resources, 47 percent somewhat agreed and 33 percent strongly agreed. Asked if politicians pay too much attention to urban areas and not enough to rural areas, 42 percent somewhat agreed and 33 percent strongly agreed. And asked if urbanites look down on rural people, 40 percent somewhat agreed and 25 percent strongly agreed.

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This analysis found that rural resentment stood out as strongly predicting the Republican votes. For example, in 2020, we found that voters harboring high levels of rural resentment were 35 percent less likely to say they would vote for the Democratic U.S. House candidates than non-resentful rural voters, all else equal.

Don't miss the whole essay, based on these scholars' recent publication in Political Research Quarterly.  This essay is a nice compliment to my piece a few days ago on rural bashing because this survey suggests that rural bashing really does impact how rural folks vote.  In other words, there's more at stake than hurt feelings.  

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