Study Highlights Urban-Rural Divide Over the Environment

Duke University’s Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions issued a new study on the rural and urban divide over environmental issues. The study says rural voters have a deep distrust of the federal government, which explains their split with urban folks on environmental policy. The study says rural Americans matter a whole lot when it comes to the fate of U.S. environmental policy. After all, farmers, ranchers, and forest owners manage a huge part of America’s lands and watersheds. The study finds that 70 percent of rural folks express their support for conserving natural resources, while the same percentage of urban folks feel the same way. However, a stark contrast comes to light when each side is asked about the preferred level of government oversight on the environment. Forty percent of rural voters support less government oversight of the environment and conservation, while 47 percent of urban voters support more government oversight. “My hope is that this will help us understand how to engage with rural constituencies,” says Robert Bonnie, who led the study. “This data shows there is an approach to national climate legislation that empowers states and local government because folks seem more comfortable with that.”