Where someone lives may work as an indicator for their political views but leaving that area may make an even bigger impact.
As someone who grew up in a town of roughly 1,000 people, this is something I have found to be all too common. I myself have been in this situation.
When the election was not yet over, people from all over the country were showing off their political ideologies with signs and banners. The people of my hometown in Williamsburg, PA have been no exception when it comes to their preference for “a red wave.”
Their choice is not surprising, however. A 2018 study done by the Pew Research Center showed that those from rural areas tend to be conservative (54%), while urbanites lean more liberal (62%).
For some voters, leaving their rural hometown has changed their views, causing more than just a divide within the country. It has caused a divide within their own families. Children do tend to vote like the rest of their families. As found in a Gallup Poll done in 2005, 77 percent of children take on their parents’ political views.
As I said before, this was something that happened to me. Williamsburg is highly conservative. Specifically, in current years I have seen signs rooting for the Republican party. One house in town even has “Trump 2020” signs on each wall.
I think before I went to college, I was in a state of limbo when it came to my political views. My dad was a staunch Republican and my mom loosely called herself a Democrat. I, for one, really was not sure. I mostly just said I was conservative because everyone else did.
Going to college was the change for me because I had a better grasp of what each political party meant and was able to meet people who were not just white and blue-collar.
I had not been sure if this was normal, however, but I was able to talk to others who left Williamsburg to get a better look at how views can and will change.
Danelle Roberts found that leaving Williamsburg also influenced her.
Once considering herself conservative, she said traveling made her realize she only called herself such because it was “the family way.” She was a lot like me in this regard.
“I do not think I actually knew what made someone conservative and someone liberal,” she said. “But because my family was conservative, I decided I was, too.”
It was only when Roberts joined the military that she became more aware of politics and new people.
“The military is not as conservative as people make it out to be,” she said. “When I joined, I found myself with many very liberal people.”
Roberts said the way in which women were treated by drill sergeants made her more open-eared to how politicians handle women’s rights, including abortion.
After going through boot camp, Roberts returned home with her new ideologies. She said returning to Williamsburg showed her how harsh some could be when it came to contrasting views.
“If I even mention politics that my family or neighbors do not agree with, they are quick to get angry at me. They do not listen and say that I have changed.”
Even though she said it was hurtful at first, she was happy to have been able to change.
“I do not consider myself conservative or liberal, but yes I have changed,” she said. “I find myself in the middle. Learning different stances helped shape me and made me feel like I understood the world better.”
Another resident from Williamsburg who found their views change was Alex Edmundson. Coming from a military heavy background, he said it was expected of him to be a conservative by both town and family.
“Anybody that isn’t conservative is seen as lesser or lazy, often both,” he said.
For a while, he said he held these same beliefs. Like his family, he said he voted for President Donald Trump in the 2016 election.
Like me, going to college was the true eye-opener for Edmundson. For him, there was more of a “culture shock.”
“Gaining new friends, a continued education of government and an open mind showed me that my views weren’t consistent with reality.”
Edmundson said looking back, he was a neo-conservative. Now, he considered himself a libertarian. It was most important to him that people had their own control, regardless of government.
“You own your life, your body, your labor, and your time. You have sole dominion over these things.”
Unlike Roberts, Edmundson said that he has no issues with his family’s beliefs. He said he does not consider their thinking “wrong.”
“I just believe their lack of exposure sometimes gets in the way of open-minded thinking,” he said.
This was the same conclusion that I came to when going through the same experience. While I would never say that everyone will change their views once they leave their rural towns, I found it to be not too uncommon.
In my opinion, small towns can be very closed off. The people within them stick around because everyone else is a lot like them and they may be afraid of any sort of change. Once someone leaves that area, they are almost forced to learn about new changes and think differently.