Geographic Differences of Individual Views toward the Role of Government


  • Daniel Fudge University of Mississippi



Government, through the provision of public services, plays an integral role in the lives of American citizens.  In consequence, public opinion of government involvement has been consistently measured through the use of national surveys in order to better evaluate the public’s reaction to specific public policies.  While measuring of aggregate public opinions on government involvement is valuable, there are certainly differences across various groups of Americans.  The United States may be divided when it comes to partisanship and ideology, but perhaps there are also significant divisions between Americans based on their geography, or “place”.  Using data from the American National Election Survey from 1994-2008, this study examines the differences in opinion on government spending towards public services, welfare programs, and Social Security.  Rooted in the idea that different “places” harbor varying degrees of support for the government, I hypothesize that the role of government is viewed differently between urban and rural America, further demonstrating that America experiences an urban-rural division in regard to perceptions of American politics.  The findings demonstrate that ideology drives Americans’ support for these specific policies and that “place” can serve as a conditioning effect on the standard ideological view.  Specifically, liberals living in rural areas are less supportive of government spending than their liberal counterparts living in more urban areas.  Additionally, rural liberals are less supportive of welfare spending; however, are more supportive of Social Security than liberals from urban areas.


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