Daniel Shea and Nicholas F. Jacobs, "The Rural Voter: The Politics of Place and the Disuniting of America" (Columbia UP, 2023)


The widening gulf between rural and urban America is becoming the most serious political divide of our day. Support for Democrats, up and down the ballot, has plummeted throughout the countryside, and the entire governing system is threatened by one-party dominance. After Donald Trump's surprising victories throughout rural America, pundits and journalists went searching for answers, popping into roadside diners and opining from afar. Rural Americans are supposedly bigots, culturally backwards, lazy, scared of the future, and radical. But is it that simple? Is the country splintering between two very different Americas--one rural, one urban? 

This pathbreaking book pinpoints forces behind the rise of the "rural voter"--a new political identity that combines a deeply felt sense of place with an increasingly nationalized set of concerns. Combining a historical perspective with the largest-ever national survey of rural voters, Nicholas F. Jacobs and Daniel M. Shea uncover how this overwhelmingly crucial voting bloc emerged and how it has roiled American politics. They show how perceptions of economic and social change, racial anxieties, and a traditional way of life under assault have converged into a belief in rural uniqueness and separateness. Rural America believes it rises and falls together, and that the Democratic Party stands in the way. An unparalleled exploration of rural partisanship, this book offers a timely warning that the chasm separating urban and rural Americans cannot be papered over with policies or rhetoric. Instead, The Rural Voter: The Politics of Place and the Disuniting of America (Columbia University Press, 2023) demonstrates, this division strikes at the heart of enduring conflicts over American identity.

Nicholas F. Jacobs is assistant professor of government at Colby College.

Daniel M. Shea is professor and chair of government at Colby College. 

Caleb Zakarin is the Assistant Editor of the New Books Network.

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Caleb Zakarin

Caleb Zakarin is the Assistant Editor of the New Books Network.

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