Feb 12, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Partisanship is fueling urban-rural divisions

Data: SurveyMonkey online poll of 2,726 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 24–28 Margin of error ±2.5 percentage points; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

City dwellers and rural Americans share many of the same values, despite political and economic polarization that can push the two apart, according to a new Axios/SurveyMonkey poll.

Why it matters: Sizable minorities from both cities and rural areas said they're worried about how the other perceives them. And partisan politics explains a lot of those divisions.

The big picture: Practically, rural and urban lives look vastly different — from where they buy groceries to the way they get around to how they die. But their values and worldviews are often similar.

By the numbers: Big city residents (53%) were just as likely as rural respondents (55%) to say they often feel like a stranger in their own country.

  • The economy, health care and the environment were the three most important issues — in that order — regardless of where respondents lived.
  • Rural and urban respondents are equally likely to attend a religious service once a week — or to never attend. Rural areas, however, have a higher share who attend more than once a week.
  • Strong majorities of respondents from every rural-urban classification support legalizing marijuana.

"We do find a lot of similarities between people living in urban and suburban communities," Juliana Horowitz, associate director of research at Pew Research Center, told Axios. "They're dealing with similar problems even if they feel like people aren't sharing their problems."

Yes, but: Questions about partisan politics revealed the starkest disparities between rural and urban communities in the Axios/SurveyMonkey poll.

  • For example, half of those living in major cities said they "strongly disapprove" of Trump's presidency. 41% of rural respondents said they "strongly approve."
  • The urban-rural divide has become more pronounced as rural areas have become far more Republican, Horowitz said.

Between the lines: The Axios/Survey Monkey poll is significantly more optimistic than past results.

  • In a 2018 Pew Research Center survey, 63% of urban respondents and 56% of rural respondents said their kinds of communities were judged negatively by people who live in a different type of community.


Methodology: The data is from a SurveyMonkey online poll conducted among adults ages 18 and older in the United States. Respondents were selected from the more than 2 million people who take surveys on the SurveyMonkey platform each day. Data has been weighted for age, race, sex, education and geography using the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey to reflect the demographic composition of the United States age 18 and over, including the 2016 vote. The survey was conducted Jan. 24–28, 2019 among 2,726 adults. The modeled error estimate for this survey is ± 2.5 percentage points.

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