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Since vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin raised the issue of “real America,” at a Greensboro, N.C., fundraiser last week, the calf muscles of many candidates have been strained — there’s been mad pedalling away from, around, and straight to the heart of what constitutes patriotism.

Palin told the crowd, “We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America.”

Leaving aside whether Greensboro is a small town, James Gimpel of the University of Maryland, supports Palin’s claim. In the National Review, Gimpel points to the greater proportion of rural Americans serving in the military and also cites research from the University of Michigan. Its American National Election Study (2004) surveyed Americans directly on “love of your country” and the importance of “being an American.”

Nearly 3/4ths of respondents from counties of fewer than 25,000 people said their love of country was extremely strong, “compared to only half of those in counties with more than 300,000 inhabitants….And over two-thirds of respondents from small counties reported that it is “extremely important” to be American, compared to about half of big-city folk.”

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