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Us Over Here Versus Them Over There…Literally: Measuring Place Resentment in American Politics

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Abstract

Political scientists are accustomed to imagining electoral politics in geographical terms. For instance, there is a “red America” that largely covers the country’s expansive heartland and there is a “blue America” mostly confined to the coasts. Until recently, however, public opinion scholars had largely lost sight of the fact that the places where people live, and people’s identification with those places, shape public opinion and political behavior. This paper develops and validates a flexible psychometric scale measure of a key political psychological dimension of place: place resentment. Place resentment is hostility toward place-based outgroups perceived as enjoying undeserved benefits beyond those enjoyed by one’s place-based ingroup. Regression results indicate that males, ruralites, younger Americans, those high in place identity, and those high in racial resentment are more likely to harbor higher levels of place resentment.

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Notes

  1. In this, place resentment parallels racial resentment, which encompasses both prejudices and values (e.g., Kinder and Sanders 1996, pp. 291–294), but is unidimensional empirically due to its central emotional theme.

  2. For a thorough account, focusing on racial identity, of how shifts in the political communication environment is linked to the political potency of social identities, see Jardina (2019).

  3. In developing my items for the place resentment scale, I consciously avoided terms to the extent possible that could be tinged with racial or class-based associations.

  4. While Enos (2017) concerns the effects of objective spatial group arrangements, this paper deals with subjective identification with symbolic spaces and imagined geographic community. While both interact with other social considerations, including race, those relationships detailed by Enos are more determinative and less variable than those involving place-based identity.

  5. Appreciating that space is a premium on survey modules, a truncated 4 item version of the complete 10 item measure is also analyzed in this article.

  6. Though this paper focuses on demonstrating the usefulness of this scale for studying the role of place resentment along the urban–rural continuum, questions could easily be modified to examine place resentment attached to other place identities, such as regional identity (either nationally, e.g., Appalachia, or within states, i.e., “out-state Wisconsin”). It is beyond the scope of this paper to explore the question of level of geographic aggregation. Clearly some people identify with their urban, suburban, or rural status, while others may identify with place at other levels, such as their neighborhood, town, state, or region. Given the importance of rural identification in the accounts of Cramer and others, and the importance of urban and rural in contemporary political discourse, I focus there.

  7. To be clear, respondents were asked to classify, in their own judgement, which type of community that they live in. In the Lucid sample, respondents chose from a 6-category item ranging from “very urban” to “very rural.” On the CCES sample, respondents selected from a 4-category measure featuring categories “urban,” “suburban,” “town,” and “rural area.”

  8. All replication data and code for this article can be found at this link: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/LZQHTK.

  9. Lucid is a relatively new firm that provides researchers access to panels that yield high quality, nationally representative data. In a recent validation study, Coppock & McClellan (2019) find that Lucid results track well with high quality samples well-regarded by the political science community, including the American National Election Study (ANES).

  10. All models utilizing CCES data use the weights calculated by YouGov/CCES.

  11. Samples are also representative in terms of urban–rural: 22% in two rural-most categories in the Lucid data and 19% as “rural areas” in the CCES data.

  12. While much existing work on affective polarization focuses on animus between partisans, Johnson-Grey’s (2018) measure focusing on animus between ideological identities (liberal v conservative) is applicable to studying affective polarization given the degree to which the parties are now sorted in terms of ideological identity (Levendusky 2009; Mason 2018).

  13. Moreover, internal consistency is high for both urban (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.82) and rural (Cronbach’s alpha = 0.85) self-identifiers alike.

  14. Confirmatory factor analysis was run in R using the laavan package (Rosseel 2012). RMSEA = root mean square error of approximation. SRMR = Standardized Root Mean Square Residual.

  15. Controlling for racial resentment, populism, affective polarization, place identity strength, party ID, age, gender, and household income. Coefficients for variables of interest are presented in Table A7 in the Appendix. Only models for place resentment amongst urbanites and ruralites were possible due to the way urban-ness and ruralness were measured in the Lucid sample and because no measures of attitudes toward urbanites and ruralites were present in the 2018 CCES.

  16. A statistically significant difference between groups was determined in both the Lucid [F(5, 15) = 33.77, p < 0.001] and CCES [F(2, 3) = 39.40, p < 0.001] samples.

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Acknowledgements

There are many people who deserve acknowledgement for making this manuscript better than it would otherwise would have been. In particular, I would like to thank Katherine Cramer, Nicholas Winter, Paul Freedman, Lynn Sanders, Justin Kirkland, Jonathan Kropko, Olyvia Christley, Nicholas Jacobs, Richard Burke, Anthony Sparacino, Rachel Smilan-Goldstein, Tyler Syck, Jordan Cash, Paul Goren, Princess Williams, and the anonymous reviewers for their insights.

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Correspondence to B. Kal Munis.

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Munis, B.K. Us Over Here Versus Them Over There…Literally: Measuring Place Resentment in American Politics. Polit Behav 44, 1057–1078 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11109-020-09641-2

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