The Rural-Urban Divide in Europe (RUDE)

The Rural-Urban Divide

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 cultural divide between rural and urban areas. The project RUDE (The Rural-Urban Divide in Europe) 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.

The RUDE project

The RUDE project 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 that exacerbate rural-urban political divides. In this way, the project will combine a broad comparative study of all European countries with an in-depth analysis of five established European democracies.

Addressing the Crisis of Democracy

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.


Project Leader:
Professor Dr. Sigrid Rossteutscher, Goethe University Frankfurt/Main (Germany)

Prof. Dr. Sigrid Roßteutscher is a Professor of Social Sciences at the Goethe University at Frankfurt am Main.

Principal Investigator:
Professor Dr. Sonja Zmerli, Université Grenoble Alpes (France)

Prof. Dr. Sonja Zmerli is a university professor at the Institute of Political Studies Université Grenoble Alpes. Before she arrived at Grenoble, she held various positions at the Goethe-University Frankfurt/Main, the University of Mannheim, and the TU Darmstadt (all previous positions in Germany). Her research interests include how institutional settings and features of society influence individuals’ social and political attitudes and behavior and how the latter feedback again into the broader context.

Principal Investigator:
Dr. Guillem Rico, Autonomous University of Barcelona (Spain)

Dr. Guillem Rico received his Ph.D. in Political Science from Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), where he currently holds a postdoctoral research position. Between 2009 and 2011, he visited the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Berkeley with the support of a mobility grant from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation and the Fulbright Scholar Program. He was also awarded a Ramón y Cajal fellowship by the Spanish Ministry of Economics and Competitiveness (2014-2019). His research interests include voting behavior, public opinion, and political leadership. His work has been published in journals such as Political Psychology, Electoral Studies, and South European Society & Politics. He is author of a book on the perception and electoral influence of party leaders in Spain (Líderes políticos, opinión pública y comportamiento electoral en España. Madrid: Centro de Investigaciones Sociológicas, 2009). In addition, he is a member of the research group on Democracy, Elections, and Citizenship at UAB.

Principal Investigator:
Dr. Chris Claassen, University of Glasgow (UK)

Dr. Chris Claassen is a political scientist who researches public attitudes to democracy and majority group attitudes to immigrant and ethnic out-groups. He is interested in how these opinions shape political institutions and political behavior and conducts research in quantitative methodology, focusing on Bayesian data analysis. He is currently a senior lecturer in politics in the School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow, where he teaches courses on intergroup conflict and reconciliation, comparative public opinion, and comparative politics. Originally from Durban, South Africa, he completed his Ph.D. in the Department of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.


Principal Investigator:
Professor Dr. Markus Freitag, Universität Bern (Switzerland)

Prof. Dr. Markus Freitag studied political science, economics, and German language and literature at Heidelberg University and completed his doctoral degree (Ph.D.) at the University of Bern in 1999. Following various post-doc and lecturer positions – at the Center of European and International Studies of the University of Basel (Europainstitut Basel), the ETH Zurich, and the University of Essex (GB) – Freitag was a visiting lecturer at the University of Konstanz and a research assistant at the University of Bern. From 2004 to 2005, he was an assistant professor at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin, where he taught courses on comparative politics. From 2005 to 2011, Freitag held the Chair of Comparative Politics at the University of Konstanz. In August 2011, he was appointed to the director at the Institute of Political Science, University of Bern, and professor of political sociology. His research interests include political sociology, political psychology, and comparative politics. He has also headed several research projects, focusing specifically on collecting data on under-researched topics using specially designed questionnaires.


Professor Dr. Kathrin Ackermann, Heidelberg University (Germany)

Prof. Dr. Kathrin Ackermann, born in 1986, is a junior professor for empirical-analytical participation research at the IPW. She studied political and administrative science at the Universities of Konstanz and Leiden and then did her doctorate at the Institute for Political Science at the University of Bern. She then worked as a scholarship holder of the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR) at the Universiteit van Amsterdam. Most recently, she was employed as a research assistant (postdoc) at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main. Her main focus interests in research and teaching are comparative political behavior and attitudes study and quantitative methods.


Alina Zumbrunn, University of Bern (Switzerland)

Alina Zumbrunn is an assistant at the Institute for Political Science of the University of Bern.


Professor Dr. Christopher J. Carman, University of Glasgow (Scotland)

Prof. Dr. Christopher J. Carman (Ph.D., 2000, University of Houston) is the Stevenson Professor of Citizenship at the University of Glasgow. He has previously taught at the Universities of Strathclyde and Pittsburgh. His research focuses on political representation and its alternatives (e.g., public petitions systems), elections and electoral processes, public opinion, and public (environmental) policy. He has published numerous articles in peer-reviewed journals and co-authored several books examining politics, elections, and representation in the United States, Scotland, and the wider United Kingdom. At the University of Glasgow, Professor Carman has served as the Head of Subject (Politics), the Head of the School of Social and Political Sciences (the largest School in the University, made up of the subject areas of Politics; Sociology; Urban Studies & Public Policy; Economic & Social History; and Central & Eastern European Studies); the Deputy Head of the School and Research Convener of Social and Political Sciences and the Glasgow Academic Dean of the Glasgow-Nankai Joint Graduate School. He is currently the Head of Politics & International Relations.


Dr. Sascha Göbel, Goethe-Universität (Germany)

Dr. Sascha Göbel is a scientific assistant at the Institute for Sociology of Goethe-Universität.

Dr. Enrique Hernández, Universitat Autònoma (Spain)

Dr. Enrique Hernández is a Juan de la Cierva postdoctoral fellow at the Democracy, Elections, and Citizenship research group at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. He completed a Ph.D. in Political and Social Sciences at the European University Institute in 2016. He is interested in the study of public opinion and political behavior.

Kevin Brookes, Institute for Liberal Studies (Canada)

Kevin Brookes holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Political Science from the Grenoble Institute of Political Studies. He has collaborated with several think tanks and has taught at several universities in France (including the Lyon and Grenoble Institutes of Political Studies). He is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Grenoble Alpes. He has published articles and book reviews on the history of political thought in academic journals such as Raisons politiques, the Revue française de science politique, and The Journal of the History of Ideas. He specializes in the analysis of public choice and of political institutions.

Petar Bankov, University of Glasgow (UK)

Petar Bankov is a tutor and research assistant of the School of Social & Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow.

Professor Dr. Richard Traunmüller, University of Mannheim (Germany)

Prof. Dr. Richard Traunmüller is a Professor of Political Science and Empirical Democracy Research in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Mannheim. He is also affiliated with the Institute of Empirical-Analytical Research (InFER) and the Research Institute Social Cohesion (RISC) at Goethe University Frankfurt. Previously, he held positions at the Graduate School of Economics and Social Sciences (GESS) in Mannheim, Goethe University Frankfurt, the University of Essex, the Mannheim Centre for European Social Research (MZES), and the universities of Berne and Konstanz. He studies the socio-structural and psycho-cultural requisites of democracy with a strong focus on social cohesion and conflict problems. His current research involves the politics of free speech and censorship, citizens’ preferences for migration policy, the rural-urban political divide, and the civic consequences of wartime sexual violence. He also has a keen interest in quantitative political methodology, including Bayesian methods, data visualization, and survey experiments. His work has been published in the British Journal of Political Science, Comparative Political Studies, Political Analysis, and Sociological Methods & Research.

Rubén García Del Horno, Universitat Autònoma (Spain)

Rubén García Del Horno is a research assistant at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

Antonia Lang, Goethe University Frankfurt (Germany)

Antonia Lang is an assistant at the Institute of Sociology at Goethe University Frankfurt.

Professor Dr. Frederic Gonthier, Université Grenoble Alpes (France)

Prof. Dr. Frederic Gonthier is a professor of political science at the University of Grenoble and a researcher at PACTE. His research areas are:

  • Political sociology
  • Sociology of values
  • Attitudes towards economic liberalism and the welfare state
  • Methods of inquiry and epistemology of the social sciences
  • Quantitative analysis techniques