Cat house records

City and country Americans love blues music, but disagree on a whole lot else.
Cat Head Delta Blues and Folk Art in Clarksdale, Mississippi
Photo: Abby Ladybug

People who live in rural America are different from those who live in large cities.


Okay, but HOW are these two groups of Americans different? Good question, right? Well, the Daily Yonder is about to tell you.

Last year the Lear Center at the University of Southern California conducted a survey on belief and tastes in entertainment. The idea was to find out how conservatives differed from liberals and moderates in what these groups watched, read and listened to. The results were pretty interesting. For example:

“¢70 percent of conservatives watch Fox News daily, compared to 12 percent of liberals. Meanwhile, two-thirds of conservatives say they never watch 60 Minutes.

“¢ Conservatives are the least likely to listen to jazz or reggae music. Two-thirds of liberals said rock and roll was their favorite kind of music.

“¢ Both conservatives and liberals saw the movie The Da Vinci Code.

When the Zogby polling group conducted this survey, respondents were asked whether they lived in a large city, a small city, a suburb or a rural area. The Yonder decided to compare the two extremes in these geographic designations: those who live in large cities and those who reside in rural communities.

Sure enough, there were significant differences in how these groups answered questions about entertainment and basic beliefs. Not always, of course. Both rural and urban watch American Idol in about the same proportion (18.5% rural; 15.4% urban).

Both urban and rural America like the blues (urban 45%; rural 41%)

A similar percentage of urban and rural residents read a book at least once a week (urban 52.2%; rural 49.8%).

There were differences in entertainment choices between rural and urban. People living in cities (31.4%) were more likely to watch The Daily Show than rural residents were (20.9%). But, then, a higher proportion of rural residents (28.4%) said they NEVER watched late night television — city dwellers, only 13.2%. Not surprisingly, a higher proportion of city residents (28.1%) went to a movie at least once a month, rural residents, just 11.4% (And that was before $3.25 a gallon gas).

harrison MayesSign made by Harrison Mayes
on the outskirts of Harlan, KY
Photo: Bill Bishop

More fundamental were differences in rural and urban Americans’ basic beliefs. First, rural residents are generally more “conservative” than urbanites:

“¢ Agree that “religion should play more of a role in public life.” Rural 55.9%; Large City 39.4%

“¢ Agree that “only evolution should be taught in the science curriculum in the schools.” Rural 28.9%; Large City 50.8%

“¢ Agree that “marriage should only be between one man and one woman.” Rural 67.7%; Large City 46.4%

“¢ Agree that the “Constitution gives us the absolute right to bear arms.” Rural 66%; Large City 42.8%

“¢ Agree that “abortion is a private decision between a woman and her doctor.” Rural 56.7%; Large City 73.6%

Neither rural nor urban Americans have much faith in government or public officials, but rural residents were less enamored with government than those who lived in large cities:

“¢ Agree that “government generally solves problems.” Rural 29.8%; Large City 42.8%

“¢ Agree that “government creates more problems than it solves.” Rural 70.2%; Large City 57.2%

“¢ Agree that “elected officials generally look out for the best interests of citizens of the community they represent.” Rural 13.7%; Large City 16.9%

“¢ Agree that “all Americans would benefit from drastically reduced taxes.” Rural 59.2%; Large City 47.1%

pro choice rally in san francisco
Pro-Choice rally in San Francisco
Photo: Steve Rhodes

Urban residents, however, are much more likely to think government should play a role in helping people. Rural residents are more likely to believe people need to help themselves:

“¢ Agree that it is “important for the government to regulate business.” Rural 46.1%; Large City 65.2%

“¢ Agree that the “government should help everyone achieve the American Dream.” Rural 34.3%; Large City 54.5%

“¢ Agree that it is “our duty to help the less fortunate.” Rural 71.8%; Large City 82.5%

“¢ Agree that the “government needs to devote more resources to protecting the environment.” Rural 53.3%; Large City 69.2%

Large city residents were more accepting of immigration and free trade:

“¢ Agree that “foreigners who immigrate to America want the chance to work for a better life.” Rural 65.8%; Large City 80.8%

“¢ Agree that “America should embrace the new economics of free trade.” Rural 49%; Large City 60.5%

Rural areas and large cities had different views on the importance of liberty, security, freedom and equality:

“¢ Agree that “liberties are more important than security.” Rural 54.9%; Large City 68.7%

“¢ Agree that “freedom is more important than equality.” Rural 76.3%; Large City 68.4%

“¢ Agree that the “Constitution was written to be left open to interpretation.” Rural 38.8%; Large City 57.8%

And both areas had roughly the same feelings about Social Security:

“¢ Agree to “keep social security the way it is.” Rural 41.7%; Large City 50.3%

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