Document Type


Date of Original Version



Communication Studies


Attitudinal differences between urban and rural voters in America have been in the spotlight in recent years and engaging rural populations politically has been growing in importance, particularly since the 2016 presidential election. Meanwhile, social and geographic sorting is increasing the salience of a rural identity that drives distinct policy preferences. While recent research has examined how rural identities drive social and economic policy preferences, rural Americans are also particularly relevant to the fate of environmental policy. Farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners manage huge portions of American lands and watersheds and are important stakeholders in the implementation of environmental policies. Despite this, the environmental policy preferences of rural Americans have received little attention from the research community. This study fills a gap in the literature by investigating how collective identities among rural Americans drive environmental policy preferences. Through eight focus groups and thirty-five interviews with rural voters across America (total n=105), this study explores how four components of rural American identity—connection to nature, resentment/disenfranchisement, rootedness, and self-reliance—inform specific rural perspectives on environmental policy. The findings have implications for how to best design, communicate, and implement environmental policies in a way that can better engage rural Americans on this issue.

Publication Title, e.g., Journal

Perspectives on Politics