Political analysts call it flyover country, the heartland of America between the major population centers on the coasts.
It’s commonly believed that there is a sharp cultural and political divide between the two.
Now a poll shows not only is there a divide, it’s getting wider.
A new survey from Pew Social Trends shows urban populations are increasingly Democrat and rural voters are increasingly Republican, with distinct differences on same-sex marriage, immigration and other issues.
“As urban and rural communities are becoming more distinct along demographic lines, they are also becoming more polarized politically. Americans in urban and rural communities have widely different views when it comes to social and political issues. From feelings about President Donald Trump to views on immigration and same-sex marriage, there are wide gaps between urban and rural adults,” the polling group explains.
Those differences sometimes can be attributed simply to the political preference of the two populations.
But the polling also noted the patterns “have become more pronounced over the past two decades as rural areas have moved in a Republican direction and urban counties have become even more Democratic.”
It’s essentially a socialist-conservative split that shows no signs of being bridged.
For example, 57 percent of rural respondents said the surging number of newcomers from other countries threatens traditional American customs and values. Only 35 percent of the urban respondents agreed. Some 64 percent said such activity strengthens America, while only 40 percent of rural respondents agreed.
Nearly 70 percent of the urban respondents said whites benefit from advantages not available to blacks, but not even half of rural respondents agreed.
Urban respondents, 63 percent, said it’s a good thing to have same-sex marriage; rural respondents, 52 percent, said it’s a bad thing.
“When it comes to abortion rights, the significant gap in attitudes between urban and rural residents – 61 percent of those in urban areas compared with 46 percent in rural areas say abortion should be legal in all or most cases – virtually disappears after controlling for party,” the research said.
“A similar pattern can be seen on the question of whether the economic system unfairly favors powerful interests, or if it is generally fair to most Americans. Overall, urban residents are more likely than those living in rural areas to say the economic system is unfair.”
There was, however, rare agreement among urban and rural respondents when the question is about Barack Obama.
“Seventy percent of Republicans in urban areas give Obama a cold [negative] rating, compared with 78 percent of Republicans in rural areas. And urban Democrats are more likely to give Obama a warm rating (83 percent) than rural Democrats (72 percent).”
The highest level of rejection of same-sex marriage comes from rural Republicans, with urban Republicans second. Democrats largely endorse it.
“A similar pattern can be seen in views of societal priorities when it comes to marriage and family. Respondents were asked which of the following statements came closer to their own views, even if neither is exactly right: Society is better off if people make marriage and having children a priority, or society is just as well off if people have priorities other than marriage and children.”
Seventy three percent of urban Democrats say society is just as well off if people don’t prioritize marriage and children. Rural Democrats, 65 percent, mostly agreed. Those figures were only 53 percent for urban Republicans and 40 percent for rural Republicans.
The study explained: “Large demographic shifts are reshaping America. The country is growing in numbers, it’s becoming more racially and ethnically diverse and the population is aging. … Urban areas are at the leading edge of racial and ethnic change, with nonwhites now a clear majority of the population in urban counties while solid majorities in suburban and rural areas are white. Urban and suburban counties are gaining population due to an influx of immigrants in both types of counties, as well as domestic migration into suburban areas. In contrast, rural counties have made only minimal gains since 2000 as the number of people leaving for urban or suburban areas has outpaced the number moving in. And while the population is graying in all three types of communities, this is happening more rapidly in the suburbs than in urban and rural counties.”