A new Yale-led study
found that the Covid-19 pandemic may have at least temporarily altered some historical anti-government attitudes that tend to be stronger in rural communities, particularly in the West.
In a representative survey of residents in rural counties of the U.S. West, a team of researchers, led by Justin Farrell
of the Yale School of the Environment (YSE), identified significant bipartisan support for a range of “big” government interventions to support rural recovery.
“We are only beginning to understand the social, economic, and environmental impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, but our new survey suggests that a realignment of political preferences is taking place,” said Farrell, an associate professor of sociology at YSE and lead researcher for the project. “If these patterns hold – and we’ll know more after our second wave of the survey with the same people in Spring 2021 – it will have far-reaching policy impacts.
He added: “The pandemic laid bare many of the long-standing problems facing rural communities, yet at the same time, the pandemic has created an opening – among rural residents – for large-scale social and economic reforms to strengthen the social safety net, improve well-being, and speed up our transition to clean energy.”
Among the key findings were:
One third of residents in the rural West have had direct experience with COVID-19, either personally or through family, friends, or acquaintances
One in five people who were employed full time last year became unemployed by the time of the survey
While unemployment spiked for all people in the rural West, it was women and Latino/a residents who saw the largest increase in unemployment
Latino/a residents received fewer benefits despite high unemployment levels
There was strong bipartisan support for government relief spending on healthcare, housing, infrastructure, small business and direct payment to individuals
Less than 15 percent of rural Westerners approve of how Congress has responded to the pandemic
The researchers also found that while Latino/a residents saw large increases in unemployment, their use of unemployment insurance was dramatically lower than non-Latino/a residents. By contrast, the largest increase in the use of unemployment benefits was for non-Latino-/a whites, where usage went from 2.6 percent to 14.3 percent.
The age group with the largest unemployment increase among all ethno-racial groups was the 30- to 39-year-old age group, which saw a rise from 6 percent pre-pandemic to 22 percent at the time of the survey.