Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many people, especially those who are able to work at home, have decided to try and relocate to a rural area. However, many people also resist such an idea, and this article discusses how the Communication Theory of Social Judgement comes into play. By addressing certain issues, the results of a targeted survey indicate that it might be possible to entice individuals to permanently move from the city to a more rural community.
So what is social judgment theory? It is “A theory of attitude change postulating that the magnitude of persuasion produced by a particular message depends on how much the position advocated in the message differs from a person’s attitude. Persuasion is likely to be greatest when a message advocates a position that a person finds neither clearly acceptable nor clearly objectionable. *” There are three areas in this theory, they are called “latitudes”,
- Latitude of Acceptance – positive attitude – These are folks who are already feeling positive about the subject, now they just need to be motivated to move
- Latitude of Noncommittal – not for, but not against – these folks have to be moved into the acceptance
- Latitude of Rejection – against – dead set against, these folks have to be moved to the noncommittal
Why does this even matter? Because the population difference between urban and rural communities has grown. According to the USDA-ERS Texas state data, in 1980 approximately 20% of the State of Texas lived in rural areas. By 2019, that percentage had dropped to approximately 11%. (USDA, 2020) It is a national problem that evidenced by the fact that in 2019, the rural population of the United States stood at approximately 57.8 million while there were approximately 271.73 million living in urban areas. (Statista, 2020). As we have seen from the COVID Pandemic, when folks are crowded into an area and live one on top of another, it is easier for disease to spread.
The survey, 200 Individuals in a Private Facebook group, 5 Additional individuals from open session, Might be biased towards rural life – respondents have a connection to a large university in an urban area that is surrounded by a mostly rural area. Some respondents remarked that the survey seemed biased against the rural lifestyle
Then we asked some questions about conditions, if something changed would you consider moving.
Rural communities and businesses do have a chance to convince people to relocate to their environment, but it will take work and effort. Here are some suggestions:
- It may be possible to convince people to move to rural communities or move noncommittal to acceptance, or move rejection to noncommittal using persuasive messages such as:
- Expert delivering a single targeted message –
- A community leader talking about the business climate
- An educator discussing school opportunities
- A Healthcare professional discussing resources
- Multiple messages – the above message can be combined with a marketing effort, using social media, traditional media, but it must be consistent
The tools are there we just have to be willing to use them.