How Urban and Rural Voters Differ and Fuel Political Divisions

The election of Donald Trump helped to define more of the political divide that exists between urban and rural voters in the United States.

Since 1998, the number of registered voters in rural American counties has swung from 44% Republican to 54%. At the same time, Democratic voter registrations fell from 45% to 38%. The only stability exists in suburban counties, which are still swing areas for both political parties.

Although swings in political affiliation are somewhat frequent in the United States, what is fueling the divide between urban and rural voters are their views on specific social issues.

On Immigration

There is a 22 percentage point divide between rural (57%) and urban (35%) voters who say that growing numbers of immigrants threaten traditional American customs and values.

On Race

There is a 22 percentage point gap between urban (69%) and rural (47%) voters who say that white people benefit from advantages that African-Americans do not receive.

On Government

There is a 21 percentage point gap between urban (70%) and rural (49%) voters who say the government should be doing more to solve the problems the U.S. faces.

On Same-Gender Marriage

There is a 17 percentage point gap between rural (52%) and urban (35%) voters who say that it is a “very” or “somewhat” bad thing for a society to practice.

On Abortion

There is a 16 percentage point gap between rural (52%) and urban (36%) voters who say that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases.

[Statistics Reference]

What Is Notable About These Figures?

Concerning the issues that Americans feel are significant to society, most people in both parties find there is no room for compromise.

When rural voters say that the presence of immigrants threatens traditional American customs, there are very few people from the Republican camp who think like Democrats. When urban voters say that the presence of immigrants strengthens American society, you don’t get many Republicans to agree with that observation.

That’s why this divide has become a political fault line. There is no longer any room for compromise. One side sees themselves as being right, while their opponent is always wrong.

What fuels this divide? Economics.

About 70% of rural voters say that their values differ from those in big cities, with approximately 40% listing their views as “very different.” Only 20% of urban voters say that their values are “very different” from their rural counterparts.

This divide is about money. Does the federal government show preferential treatment to specific demographics?

People in rural areas are more likely to feel that immigrants are taking jobs away from them. They think that spiritual values are on the decline, and those in the big cities with their “Ivory towers” and “elitism” are to blame.

There is also a social identity to consider. Rural voters see themselves as people who look out for each other. Families that live in cities are not as compassionate, at least from the personal perspective, toward their neighbors in urban environments.

President Trump isn’t to blame for this division, although his comments certainly provoke debate between the two groups. This separation between urban and rural voters has been active in the U.S. for over 20 years. Until both sides feel like their concerns are being heard, it is going to continue.