In most poor countries, basic services in rural areas are less accessible and of lower quality than those in urban settings. In this article, we investigate the subnational geography of service delivery and its relationship with citizens' perceptions of their government by analyzing the relationship between service access, satisfaction with services and government, and the distance to urban centers for more than 21,000 survey respondents across 17 African countries. We confirm that access to services and service satisfaction suffer from a spatial gradient. However, distant citizens are less likely than their urban peers to translate service dissatisfaction into discontent with their government; distant citizens have more trust in government and more positive evaluations of both local and national officials. Our findings suggest that increasing responsiveness and accountability to citizens as a means of improving remote rural services may face more limits than promoters of democratic governance and citizen-centered accountability presume.
Distance, services, and citizen perceptions of the state in rural Africa