Political Structure of Rural America

David Knoke, Constance Henry

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24 Scopus citations


Historical rural American political behavior has revolved around the three themes of radicalism, conservatism, and apathy. Post-World War II research on urban-rural differ ences reveals little support either for contemporary rural radicalism or greater political apathy in rural areas. However, rural citizens, particularly farmers, exhibit more conservative political orientations than metropolitan populations. The reapportionment revolution of the 1960s, which proponents thought would reduce rural advantage in state and national government, has not noticeably altered social policy outputs of state legislatures or the Congress in a more liberal, urban- oriented direction. The Electoral College currently under- represents rural influence in electing the president, although various alternatives tend to discriminate in reverse. Future trends suggest a diminishing political difference between rural and urban populations. Exposure of rural residents to mass media and the interchange of populations between geographic areas imply a gradual homogenization of social, cultural, and political values which will ultimately render country and city indistinguishable in terms of political behavior. Other social dimensions play a more central role in political conflict than the rural-urban dimension. Leaving aside the possibility of an unforeseen crisis, rural interests are unlikely to capture national political attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-62
Number of pages12
JournalThe ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1977


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