The Question of Bridging the Rural Divide
We are a nation adamantly divided. Partisans on both sides have dug in their heels and stubbornly hold onto their ideological and political positions for nothing less than full victory.
The divide is most clearly represented by the results of the presidential election where the significant factor was college education – those who have it and those who do not, which is reflected in an urban versus rural split, as significantly more urban dwellers tend to have a college education.
So how do leaders bridge this divide? (Despite the rural constituency’s importance, I find some Democrats refusing to acknowledge that rural denizens have unique issues that should be addressed.)
I believe the answer is simple. It hearkens back to times when politicians were less likely to turn away from constituents who were not part of their winning coalition. As practical and judicious, elected officials should listen to and work for the best policy solutions for everyone. Include, do not exclude.
The recent Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that “the political divide between rural and urban America is more cultural than it is economic, rooted in rural residents’ deep misgivings about the nation’s rapidly changing demographics, their sense that Christianity is under siege, and their perception that the federal government caters most to the needs of people in big cities.”
As such, rural citizens are much more disaffected from urbanites than the other way around:
- 68 percent of rural residents say their values differ from people who live in cities, while only 48 percent of urban residents make the same comparison with rural dwellers.
- 41 percent of rural residents say their values are “very different” from city folk, but only 18 percent of urbanites say rural values are “very different” from their own.
Key, the survey shows that disagreements between rural and urban America center on the perception of fairness: “Who wins and loses in the new American economy, who deserves the most help in society, and whether the federal government shows preferential treatment towards certain groups of people.”
As before, there is less influence found from economic distress in rural support for Trump. Those who lament their community’s job opportunities report supporting Trump by 14 percentage points more than for Clinton. Trump’s margin was 30 points among those who thought job prospects were excellent or good.
The largest and key fissures between Americans living in cities and those in less-dense areas are rooted in misgivings about the country’s changing demographics and resentment about perceived biases in federal assistance. Race permeates these issues.
Agree with statement that blacks and Hispanics losing out because of preferences for Caucasians is the larger problem than the reverse.
- 56 percent – urban
- 37 percent – suburban
- 34 percent – rural
Agree with statement that Caucasians losing out because of preferences for blacks and Hispanics is the larger problem than the reverse.
- 34 percent – rural
- 27 percent – suburban
- 23 percent – urban
Agree with statement that immigrants are a burden on the nation.
- 42 percent – rural
- 31 percent – suburban
- 16 percent – urban
In this context, rural Americans are skeptical that the federal government is fair or effective at improving people’s economic situations.
- A total of 64 percent say federal efforts to improve living standards either have little impact or make things worse.
- 31 percent – do not have much impact
- 33 percent – make things worse
- 56 percent of rural residents say the federal government does more to help people living in and around large cities.
- 37 percent feel the federal government treat both urban and rural areas equally.
Policies for improving the employment situation in their areas that rural Americans support:
- 68 percent – decreasing regulations on businesses
- 79 percent – lowering taxes on businesses
- 93 percent – infrastructure projects
- 74 percent – “very important”