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Monday, Oct. 20, 2014
 

Multimedia: Featured

'Insights With Robert Wuthnow'



Sociologist Robert Wuthnow and his team of researchers interviewed more than 700 people in small towns around the country for a project that offers new insights into where small towns fit in 21st-century America. While their populations are small, these communities continue to play a big role in American life, he says. Read more.


Video Closed Captions



ROBERT WUTHNOW: The total
population in these towns,

these small towns, is about
30 million people,

demographically a fairly small
percentage, culturally, huge.

We are a nation that started
as a nation of small towns.

For much of our history,
we have been a

culture of small towns.

Small towns are still very much
in our consciousness.

MICHAEL HOTCHKISS: What's
ahead for small towns?

ROBERT WUTHNOW: A lot of people
have predicted the

death of small towns.

It is true that many small
towns are declining,

especially if they've
already become quite

small or already declining.

My view is a little bit
more mixed than that.

There's also a lot of social
resilience in small towns.

A town of anywhere from 2,000 to
5,000 people, up to 10,000

people, is likely to
do pretty well.

I would predict that in the
next 10 years or 20 years,

there will still be at least
30 million people living in

small towns.

MICHAEL HOTCHKISS: Are people in
small towns a lot different

from people who don't
live in small towns?

ROBERT WUTHNOW: It is true that
people in small towns are

more likely to vote Republican
than people in cities and more

likely to be conservative on a
lot of social issues, such as

abortion, homosexuality, and so
forth that might influence

how they vote.

That was one main conclusion.

The second main conclusion,
though, was that when they

actually get to talk in their
own words about how they

think, they're usually in the
middle of the road, and

they're usually very complex
in their understanding of

these issues.

MICHAEL HOTCHKISS: What helps
small towns succeed?

ROBERT WUTHNOW: Well,
what helps a lot is

where they're located.

But then there are some things
we found that can actually

make a difference.

Leadership makes a difference.

A lot of these towns have a
very strong sense of civic

pride, community involvement.

They put on festivals, they
attract tourists, and then

especially if they have some
professional leadership,

they're able to attract small
businesses, sometimes small

manufacturing plants.

They're increasingly relying
on the internet, on

technology, on the fact that
people can get inexpensive

housing and still commute
to a larger place.

MICHAEL HOTCHKISS: So why does
all of this matter for those

of us who don't live
in small towns?

ROBERT WUTHNOW: My main hope
in doing this project was

first of all, to encourage
greater understanding of the

variety of small towns, the
complexity of small towns, and

secondly, to engender a certain
degree of respect, so

that there was an appreciation
of what small

towns have to offer.


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