The Rural-Urban Divide in Europe

Rising populism and polarization, coupled with declining democratic legitimacy, all point toward a crisis in European democracies. This crisis has a regional dimension: a political and perhaps cultural divide between rural and urban areas. The project examines whether and how urban-rural residency is related to divides in legitimacy beliefs, social identities, perceptions of injustice and threat, political and social attitudes and political behavior of European citizens.

It explores “Democratic governance in a turbulent age" from different thematic angles. First, it deals with shifting identities and their consequences for democratic governance and political representation. Stable cleavages only emerge when struggles for identity are accompanied by perceptions of social inequality and unfair resource distribution. Second, it examines the role played by globalization: increasing rural-urban economic divides create social status threats which exacerbate rural-urban political divides. The project will combine a broad comparative study of all European countries with an in-depth analysis of five established European democracies.

The project will result in the provision of significant new evidence on rural-urban disparities in European politics, which will allow us to examine the consequences of – and cures for – the current crisis of democracy, thereby engaging both academic and policymaking audiences

The consortium is a European cross-national research collaboration including researchers from France, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom and is part of the NORFACE Research Programme on Democratic Governance in a Turbulent Age.

The project is financially supported by the NORFACE Joint Research Programme on Democratic Governance in a Turbulent Age and has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 822166.

Funding period:  January 1, 2021 – December 31, 2023


Dr. Sascha Göbel
Goethe University Frankfurt
sascha.goebel [at]