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Research on rural support for disruptive political movements wins major European grant

30 Mar 2023 3 minute read
Donald Trump (R). Picture by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A study exploring the link between rural discontent and support for disruptive political movements has been awarded a major European grant.

Michael Woods, a professor at Aberystwyth University, will use the €2.5 million grant from the European Research Council to explore why many rural areas have been key supporters of Brexit in Britain, Donald Trump’s presidency in the United States, and populist parties in Europe such as Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally.

It will investigate how the grievances of rural people influence voting patterns, as well as look at variations between different rural areas.

The project will additionally examine the consequences of rising populism for inclusion and diversity in the countryside.

The project will compare examples in the UK, France, Poland, Spain and the United States, working with partners at the University of Kentucky and the University of Wisconsin Eau-Claire.

Researchers will combine analysis and mapping of election results, a major international survey of 17,500 people, and detailed local case studies.

Aberystwyth University’s new Dialogue Centre will also be involved in facilitating engagement with communities.


Professor Woods, from the University’s Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, said: “In a time of political uncertainty, it is important for us to understand how feelings of discontent and injustice in the countryside may feed support for disruptive movements.

“This grant will allow us to compare patterns in several countries and to investigate why similar pressures on rural communities produce different political outcomes in different places.

“Importantly, by focusing on what we call ‘spatial justice’, the project will aim to recognise the real grievances of rural people, while also highlighting the experiences of rural residents who are excluded or threatened by polarising rhetoric.

“We want to work with rural communities to explore fair and inclusive ways of addressing the challenges that they face.”

Professor Woods joins a small elite to have been successful in winning two successive awards, following his 2014­-2019 GLOBAL-RURAL project that examined globalization in rural areas.

The grants are designed to support excellent research leaders with a recognised track record of achievements. Applicants must demonstrate the ground-breaking nature, ambition and feasibility of their scientific proposal.

The project is expected to produce significant new insights into the relationship between rural discontent and disruptive political movements, as well as the consequences of rising populism for rural communities.

Maria Leptin, President of the European Research Council (ERC), said: “These new ERC Advanced Grantees are a testament to the outstanding quality of research carried out across Europe. We look forward to seeing the results of the new projects in the years to come, with many likely to lead to breakthroughs and new advances.”

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 year ago

cofiwch, William Jones, Llangadfan…1726-1795. Well done Aber…

Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
1 year ago

I can tell you why for sixty quid to go on my gas meter….and I will have it typed out before end of play tomorrow.

1 year ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

Well it might take more than 60 quid but a lot less than the quoted figure. The sense of being ignored, undervalued, neglected, abused, scorned …….. need I go on? I have maintained since pre June 2016 that there was a strong undercurrent of hostility based on frustrations. Central UK government were particularly guilty of provoking such sentiment and the distant stances of EU came a close second. I was in Cornwall just days before the referendum and the numbers that I heard mention giving Cameron a bloody nose was significant. Rural discontent shared many characteristics with the reactions of… Read more »

Lord Montague Flange.
Lord Montague Flange.
1 year ago

Will the tory party be included in the disruptive political movement group?

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