Let’s talk about the rural-urban divide in America. A 2020 study by Washington University in St. Louis political scientists found that proximity to bigger cities drives the political divide. Researchers found that even with all other individual characteristics constant, a voter’s probability of identifying as a strong Democrat drops by 12 percentage points if they live in a rural area. Likewise, they found that a person living in a densely packed community is about 11 points more likely to identify as a strong Democrat compared with that same person living in a sparsely populated area. And in terms of distance from a large metropolitan city, their analysis showed that, on average, Republicans lived 20 miles from a city. In comparison, independents lived 17 miles away, and Democrats lived 12 miles away.
What does all this mean? And how does it reflect how the land was dispersed to white settler-colonists? The study does not address that its findings do not apply to Native reservations located in proximity or even inside these white rural areas. Or for Black rural voters.
In Oregon, we see this playing out in troubling ways, with some rural counties wanting to leave the state and join Idaho. And with Nike founder Phil Knight’s one million dollar donation to bring more Republicans to Salem, does such a donation have any chance of changing anything?