Author ORCID Identifier
Year of Publication
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Arts and Sciences
Dr. Michael Zilis
How does rural deprivation, defined here as the perception that rural residents are deprived of economic and social capital that comparatively disadvantages them more than their urban and suburban counterparts, impact their political attitudes? And how do these perceptions, termed perceived rural deprivation, impact their attitudes towards the government? While scholars have long studied rural behavior, interest in the topic was reinvigorated during the Trump presidency once it became clear that rural voters contributed to Donald Trump’s election in 2016 and became some of his strongest and most loyal supporters during his presidency.
Before we can answer the question of how perceived rural deprivation influences political attitudes and behavior, it is essential to develop a conceptualization and measure of the construct. This development is the first major contribution of the dissertation. I first consider people’s sense of what I call perceived rural deprivation, or PRD, meaning that rural people perceive themselves to be deprived of important resources relative to their urban counterparts, and how it contributes to their views of governmental representation. Armed with this new conceptualization, I develop and validate a rural deprivation scale using three original surveys. Next, I provide a theoretical framework that elucidates the roles of place identity and resource constraints in contributing to a sense of rural deprivation. In other words, place identity has combined with perceptions that rural residents are deprived of resources, culminating in a group of people who distrust outside groups. Third, I examine how rural deprivation impacts respondents’ evaluations of the government’s performance. Since politicians at the federal level are largely urban or represent more populous urban interests, rural residents have less confidence in the government’s ability or willingness to represent them. By explaining how rural people understand their role in politics, this study makes a valuable contribution to scholarship on the urban-rural divide in the U.S.
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All funding awards specified below were awarded directly to the author.
Ken And Mary Sue Coleman Fellowship, Political Science Department, University of Kentucky, Summer 2020, 2021, 2022
Block Funding Summer Top-Up Award, Political Science Department, University of Kentucky, Summer 2020
James S. Brown Award, University of Kentucky Appalachian Center, Spring 2021
Endowed Doctoral Research and Travel Award, Political Science Department, University of Kentucky, Summer 2021
Blandau, Mary Rachael, "Home Is Where the Heart Is: Rural Residents, Deprivation, and the Impact of PRD on Governmental Representation" (2023). Theses and Dissertations--Political Science. 46.