When shown a range of arguments for investing in rural areas, 77% of adults in England polled by YouGov supported putting more resources into those areas.

Less than 5% were against it, and where the trade-off between rural and urban investment was explicit, almost three times as many people (40-44%) supported rural investment than opposed (14-16%) it.

The National Innovation Centre for Rural Enterprise (NICRE) said that, if the case framed well, there is strong public support to ‘level up’ investment in rural areas, even among those living in urban areas.

The Framing Rural report, led by the Royal Agricultural University (RAU), suggests that, as long as the messaging is right, most people are open to more investment in rural areas.

NICRE deputy director, prof Tom MacMillan, said: “As we approach an election, these findings suggest that most people, even in towns and cities, are potentially supportive of rural investment when it is framed engagingly.

“This research should give politicians of all parties confidence in putting rural issues and places on the agenda.”

Rural investment

As well as being the view of those living in cities, towns and the countryside, this was also consistent across the political spectrum based on the way that respondents voted in the last election, the RAU said.

The university said this suggests that campaigning for rural investment could go down well in the countryside without alienating urban voters.

Further evidence from the research shows the strongest cases for rural investment address the challenges head-on, avoid rhetoric or creating a ‘rural and urban divide’. They also call for access to basic services wherever in the country someone lives.

Respondents to the YouGov poll were shown one of four ‘framing’ statements which positioned rural investment in a way to connect it emotionally with an audience, as based on evidence from focus groups with members of the public.

The groups suggested people engaged most with rural issues when advocates used straightforward language and worked with, rather than against, people’s perceptions of the countryside.

The report found the biggest ‘turn-offs’ were creating division between those living in rural and urban places, and attempts to convince participants of something that went against their existing beliefs.

Phillip Vincent from Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) welcomed the report, saying: “We take heart from this report finding people are supportive of rural investment.

“This backs up our experience that people recognise and empathise with the challenges rural communities face, from a lack of affordable housing to poor access to services.

“Having released our own recommendations for the next government recently, our hope is that this NICRE report will give politicians more confidence in tackling these issues because most people are supportive of solutions that aim to improve opportunities for people wherever they live.”