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A brief history of hating cities

The anti-urban impulse once crossed party lines, says historian Steven Conn

City living is highly appealing to many Americans right now, as astronomical rents in Boston, New York, and San Francisco prove. But big cities like these still don’t strike everyone as “the real America”—which explains why a small-town pancake breakfast makes a much better political photo op than a subway ride.

Today, we tend to associate the anti-urban impulse with right-wing politics, and a recent Pew Research survey confirmed that modern political lines seem to break that way: Conservatives strongly prefer to live with a lot of room between themselves and their neighbors, while liberals like smaller dwellings with walking-distance amenities.

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