rural issues

For several years the FrameWorks Institute has investigated how Americans think about rural America and related issues, from access to health care to economic development. This work, conducted for the W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s Rural People Rural Policy Initiative, has yielded a rich array of research reports and reframing advice for those who struggle to communicate the need for better rural policies to urban, suburban and rural Americans.

Support for FrameWorks’ research and message development on Rural Issues in America was provided by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

Research & Recommendations

A comprehensive strategic message memo, Talking Rural Issues: A FrameWorks Message Memo distills the research and explains the recommended strategies to communicate more effectively about government

How to Talk About Rural Issues.  This Message Brief distills the research findings and framing strategies explained in the Message Memo, and offers a summary of key communications strategies on the issue.

Our Research

Revisiting Frames that Garner Support for Rural America (2009). This report details the results of an experimental survey of 2162 adults, exploring how alternative values alter public support for policies designed to help rural communities.  The report demonstrates the power of using the value of Opportunity for All in communications about rural life. By designing communications around this value, advocates can bring about their framing goals more effectively then with the other values assessed.

The Agrarian Myth Revisited: Findings from Cognitive Elicitations (2003).  Rural issues seem to fall into the category of topics where Americans’ default patterns of reasoning prevent them from seeing and engaging with important facts. This report is intended to help advocates better understand those default patterns of reasoning, since without addressing them, advocates are unlikely to make breakthroughs in raising public concern.

Perceptions & Misperceptions: An Analysis of Qualitative Research Exploring Views of Rural America (2003).  This report distills the main findings from a series of focus groups, carried out in three different regions of the country. In sum, to build support for rural policies among urban residents, urban residents must first feel a sense of connection with rural areas. This connection needs to be more than fond memories of childhood or vacation. It needs to be based on the perception of mutual well-being, a shared fate. Therefore, advocates should not characterize rural areas or rural problems as separate or isolated. Instead, communications needs to reinforce that rural and urban areas are interdependent—what is good for one is good for all. To the extent possible, rural problems should be discussed within a broader national system indicating causes and consequences.

Connection, Cause and Character: An Analysis of Qualitative Research Exploring Views of Rural America (2004). This report shares the findings of a second series of focus groups, designed to refine the recommendations from the previous testing. In this series, participants responded to three fictional editorials designed to build support for rural policies. The findings of this series reinforce prior recommendations and caution against using the frame of ‘Rural Disparities’.

Promoting a Realistic Understanding of Rural America Through Explanatory Metaphors (2005).  In this phase of the research, FrameWorks set out to identify promising explanatory strategies that would help Americans think more productively and concretely about rural parts of the country, the problems they face, and solutions to those problems. The “explanatory metaphors” work tested the proposition that right explanatory strategy can help average Americans shift to a more accurate and productive perspective on rural America, and that this shift in understanding can also lead to increased engagement and support for solutions.

Connecting the Country to the Rest of the Country: Analysis of a Priming Survey Exploring Views of Rural America (2004). This analysis is based on a priming survey conducted via telephone with 3,105 adults nationwide. Unlike a typical survey, a priming survey incorporates a series of experiments to cue specific frames and frame elements, and then determines the extent to which exposure to the test language subsequently influences reasoning and attitudes. This research finds that the Fairness and Interdependence Frames, combined with the explanatory metaphors, move public understanding and policy support in a beneficial direction.

Framing Toolkit

Talking Rural Issues Toolkit  is a comprehensive toolkit of our research on Rural Issues, containing Frequently Asked Questions, sample op-eds, and other communications resources on the issue. 

rural workshop

Rural Issues E-Workshop  This highly visual E-Workshop will take you through the research findings on Rural Issues and test your framing IQ in a series of interactive exercises.


FrameWorks Institute

  Updated: 03/06/17