Home is Where the Politics Are: An Exploration of Place-based Politics
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
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Political research has often considered identity and the role it plays in shaping a person's political ideology and party affiliation. When referencing identity, there are multiple identities that one can consider including race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation. However, in this dissertation I investigate a new kind of identity, place identity, and its potential effects on a person's politics. This dissertation considers the role of place in three distinct ways: the role it plays when multiple identities overlap, the role it plays in state policy making, and the role it plays in policy opinion formation. First, I consider what happens when identities that may be at odds overlap. There is a growing schism between rural and urban voters, with rural voters aligning more closely with the Republican party, as well as a political gap between White and Black voters, with Black voters aligning more closely with the Democratic party. While there has been research on rural voters and their alignment with the Republican party, the research has largely focused on White rural voters. We know very little about Black rural voters, though in some parts of the United States they are a large proportion of the rural population. I explore these intersecting identities of race and place in the context of rural resentment and the potential effect on partisanship. Next, I investigate place-based policy-making by states and the potential for creating administrative burdens through rulemaking. I use policies for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as a test. SNAP is a federal eligibility-based program created to alleviate food insecurity that is administered through the states. Great variability exists in SNAP participation among eligible citizens from state to state. I consider whether the policies are actually serving as a moderator between state political ideology and the participation rate, with the policies serving as an administrative burden decreasing participation. Finally, I consider the effects of place on political opinion formation. In the United States rural areas have consistently had higher rates of poverty than metro or urban areas. Because of this economic hardship, rural areas access government programs at a higher rate per capita, than urban areas. At the same time, rural voters are aligning more and more with the Republican party. Traditionally, Republican politics lean towards less government programming, specifically less means-tested government programming. This paradox of accessing government programs while also voting for the party traditionally against government programs creates an interesting puzzle. I investigate whether the place-based economic situation effects political opinion formation about means-tested programming. This dissertation contributes to the conversation about the rural/urban divide in politics. As the nation grows we can no longer only talk about ``red" or ``blue" states, but must begin to look more closely at the divide between rural and urban. We must begin to consider how these place identities form, shape and effect political identities, state politics and political opinions.