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‘White rural rage’ book botches research, cited scholars say

A new book that links white, rural voters to racist beliefs misrepresented research, two scholars who were favorably cited say.

“White Rural Rage: The Threat to American Democracy,” “paints white rural Americans, a small and shrinking minority of the country, as the greatest threat to American democracy,” Nicholas Jacobs and Kal Munis wrote recently at Reason.

But Jacobs, a Colby College government professor, and Munis, a political scientist at Utah Valley College, “cry foul” on how their research was used.

They wrote:

The overarching argument of White Rural Rage is that ruralness can be equated with racism, xenophobia, conspiracism, and anti-democratic beliefs. But rigorous scholarship shows that rural identity is not reducible to these beliefs, which are vastly more numerous outside rural communities than within them. To get to a conclusion so at odds with the scholarly consensus, Schaller and Waldman repeatedly commit academic malpractice.

One favorably cited paper actually found “rural resentment is an attitude distinct from racial prejudice,” the two political scientists wrote about their own paper. They said the book authors misrepresented another study about resentment.

Jacobs and Munis said the book also misrepresents other scholarship including falsely claiming “rural Americans” were more likely to have “insurrectionist tendencies.”

The 2022 University of Chicago report “concludes exactly the opposite,” according to the Reason essay. “The more rural the county, the lower the county rate of sending insurrectionists,” the report says, with reference to the January 6, 2021 violence at the U.S. Capitol.

The authors suggested: “At a time when trust in experts is on the decline throughout America, flawed analysis like the ideas in White Rural Rage may be a greater threat to American democracy than anything coming from the countryside.”

Read the full essay

MORE: Professor says ‘junk citations’ create ‘distrust’ in research

IMAGE: Penguin Random House

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