Rural areas of the United States suffer systematic social deficits resulting from lack of internet access in comparison with urban regions, heavily impacting the formation of social and political identities of rural Americans. Voting data from the 2016 presidential election suggested deepening implications of this condition of digital divide. This paper presents two case studies from Calhoun, a predominantly white city located in Gordon County, Georgia and Sparta, a predominantly black city located in Hancock County, Georgia in order to complicate existing observations of rural voter patterns correlated with digital access divides. Consistent with national data on rural voting patterns, 83 percent of Gordon County voted for Trump while 76 percent of Hancock County voted for Clinton. Both Calhoun and Sparta are marked by persistently slow and frequently unavailable Internet access. Focusing on the digital divide permitted causal analysis of how rural geographical features—especially the lack of public infrastructure that worsens implications of the digital gap—influences residents’ diverging political affiliations despite median household incomes that are both below the national average and similar struggles with infrastructure, specifically internet access. This paper presents results from thirty ethnographic surveys in Calhoun and twenty-five such surveys in Sparta correlating similarities in rural features and infrastructure with striking differences in political beliefs. Saliently, residents of the two cities differed in their views of illegal immigrants, reliance on the federal government, and choice of news sources. Drawing on Bourdieu, a novel concept of digital capital is introduced to articulate intersections of race, class, and digital infrastructure access to permit the causal analysis of rural voting patterns and political affiliation in these two Georgia counties.
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