Thinking of people who identify themselves as liberal is based on certain preconditions related to their life. One of the aspects that supposedly define the attitude to liberal worldview is a place of residence. Rural and urban citizens have different values and understanding of what is essential in life. Urban citizens have a chance of a better education and more open communication than rural ones.
Tastes differ – it is hard to find a person who has never heard this proverb. People usually tend to think that it relates to tastes in food or clothing only. However, I am sure that it can be applied to any sphere of human life, even the sphere of politics, where political preferences and worldviews are of significant importance. People find political regimes good or bad, think about politics as a good or evil thing, vote for different parties and candidates. Political tastes differ, and life has already demonstrated this to me many times. That is why I started to wonder why some people are liberal and some are not. There must be preconditions for each of the worldviews. Basing on my personal experience, I have come to the hypothesis that the place of residence is one of the most influential factors in the process of acceptance or denial of liberalism. Depending on the condition whether a person lives in an urban or rural area and whether one has education or not, his or her attitude to liberal thinking is different.
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My life is a good background to such a research because I have changed my place of residence radically and faced the different level of liberalism in two different places. First, I attended a school in the small rural town of McMinnville in Oregon. I found that people I met were more likely to have conservative or traditional values in that low density area. They appeared to have a stronger belief in individualism and a more provincial way of life, centered on their families and church. Since I moved from McMinnville to the Bay Area 3 years ago, I have noticed that people had a different way of thinking and more progressive ideas in an urban environment. So, I find it interesting to investigate if people identify themselves more with liberal ideology in higher density areas.
Education and Liberalism
High population areas, such as big or central cities, tend to draw people from rural and suburban areas because of economic appeal. Moreover, jobs in these areas generally require higher levels of education compared to those in low density areas. As a result, education (college degree or higher) is a huge factor in shaping political ideology. People who have higher levels of education are more likely to identify themselves as liberal compared to those who have lesser levels of education, so one may consider that education plays a role of an intervening variable in the relationship between population density and political ideology (liberal). Education does not only provide professional knowledge, but also brings new values and understanding of life. Colleges and universities are places where individuals meet new requirements and standards, become engaged in communication with people from various religious and cultural backgrounds and learn how to work together in an efficient way. People in rural areas, unfortunately, do not have this opportunity to widen the horizons of understanding of modern society and its liberal tendencies.
Diversity and Liberalism
Another tendency I have noticed and experienced is related to liberalism through acceptance of diversity. Since people in an urban environment are exposed to a more diverse society comprised of minorities, immigrants, and visitors, they are more likely to accept a different way of thinking that is more tolerant of personal freedom and cultural differences. Urban people are more open to respect and tolerance for diversity of languages, faces, religions, traditions, teachings, and opinions. They understand that the world can differ from their comfort zone and that all human beings should not follow the same path. Urban society is multifunctional, divided and interconnected. It unites cultural spaces that might be totally opposite to each other. Therefore, urbanism always includes respect for diversity and, therefore, for liberal thinking.
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On the other hand, residents of rural areas live in a static world, which is less impacted by globalization. Hence, people tend to have more traditional values centered on the family, neighbors and church, which causes them to be more conservative and less tolerant of different values, religious, race, etc. It happens not because of their fault or lack of desire to know more. The reason is a lack of contacts with a variety of people who could bring ideas different from the usual daily views. That is why it is difficult for people from rural areas to understand the liberal way of thinking. However, I have noticed that open-minded people with modern values usually try to move to the cities because they feel more comfortable there than in rural areas. People with traditional values do not feel the necessity to change the place of residence because they are satisfied with usual living environment that does not bring them any liberal challenges, such as diversity or multiculturalism. Mostly, residents of rural areas tend to have conservative thinking based on the tradition of living that was established there years ago.
Of course, I do not think that all urban residents are liberal, whereas people from villages and small cities are non-liberal. No society can be exceptionally monolithic. I just tried to draw the general tendency of liberal thinking in states with a higher population density, which should tend to have a higher percentage of voters identifying themselves as liberal. I believe that it is also possible to increase the number of liberalism supporters in rural areas, but it is a slow process of confrontation with traditional values that would take time and human efforts.