Anja Herkner
Institute of Rural Studies

Bundesallee 64
38116 Braunschweig
Phone: +49 531 596 5501
Fax: +49 531 596 5599

"Feelings of Being Left Behind" in Rural Areas?


Poor infrastructures and rural idyll (c) ArTo/Fotolia
Poor infrastructures and rural idyll - Do people in rural areas feel left behind? (© ArTo/Fotolia)

In the public and political discussion, rural areas are depicted very differently. Partly they are regarded as economically prosperous places with a high living quality, partly as regions which “are left behind”. The aim of this research project is to investigate how the population of rural regions perceives the situation on site and how the population relates to politics, what the people hope for or expect.

Background and Objective

The research project "Feelings of Being Left Behind" in Rural Areas? is devoted to the topic of whether and to what extent the population of rural areas perceives their region or individual situation as "left behind" and, subsequently, in what relation they are to politics. On the basis of the research results, policy recommendations will be derived.


In this project, we first examine the popular-medial discourse on "feelings of being left behind" applying a qualitative discourse analysis. This serves to open up a broad spectrum of potential explanatory approaches for these social dynamics, and to develop specific, theory-generating research questions. Subsequently, we compile and synthesize the current state of research with a literature analysis.

Individual opinions and collective perceptions of the quality of life and social participation in rural areas are gathered and analyzed in qualitative focus group discussions to see whether or which "feelings of being left behind" we find. The group discussions take place in four different types of villages and towns found in rural areas (Thünen Typology).

Data and Methods

Qualitative research methods (discourse analysis, focus group interviews) in combination with quantitative, descriptive secondary analyses of region-specific data

Our Research Questions

  1. Does the population of rural regions feel "left behind" and if so, why?

  2. What specific characteristics play a role in the development of "feelings of being left behind" in rural areas?

Preliminary Results

The public-media discourse about "feelings of being left behind" has three central narratives: The narrative of “being left behind” at the infrastructural level tells of supply structure weaknesses, the narrative of "being left behind" economically of poverty and the fear of decline, and the narrative of “being left behind” culturally of an anti-cosmopolitan attitude. In all three narratives there is talk of being disappointed by politics, feeling abandoned and, accordingly, of the development of a certain frustration and dissatisfaction with politics. Whether and to what extent these narratives, which fulfil a hypothesis-like function here, can be found in the perspective of the population, will be examined in the further course of the research project.

Preliminary results will be published shortly, final results in 2022.

Links and Downloads

Project: Poverty and Social Integration in Rural Areas

Project: Stability and Acceptance of the Democratic System in Rural Areas


Involved Thünen-Partners


4.2018 - 3.2022

More Information

Projekt type:
Project status: ongoing

List of Publications

hits: 3

  1. Deppisch L, Klärner A, Küpper P, Neumeier S, Osigus T (2020) Von der Erzählung vom "abgehängten ländlichen Raum" : Was uns ein Blick auf Strukturdaten verrät. Akt Analysen 76:40-51
  2. Deppisch L (2019) "Wo sich Menschen auf dem Land abgehängt fühlen, hat der Populismus freie Bahn" - eine Analyse des populär-medialen Diskurses zu der Bedeutung von Infrastrukturverfall, Abstiegsangst und rechten (extremistischen) Werten für den Zuspruch zum Rechtspopulismus. Braunschweig: Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, 78 p, Thünen Working Paper 119, DOI:10.3220/WP1550668971000
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 1205 kb
  3. Deppisch L, Klärner A, Osigus T (2019) Ist die AfD in ländlichen Räumen besonders erfolgreich? Wissen Schafft Demokratie 5:74-87
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 377 kb