Date of this Version
Many rural communities have experienced population declines during the past several decades. However, rural communities have also been typically viewed as having many positive characteristics. So, what do rural Nebraskans look for in a community? What characteristics are present in their current community? How do they perceive rural Nebraska as a whole? Do their perceptions differ by the size of their community or their age?
This report details 2,841 responses to the 2002 Nebraska Rural Poll, the seventh annual effort to understand rural Nebraskans’ perceptions. Respondents were asked a series of questions about successful rural communities and their perceptions of rural Nebraska. Based on these analyses, some key findings emerged:
• Most rural Nebraskans believe the following characteristics are absolutely essential in a community: a quality school system, sense of personal safety, affordable medical services, quality jobs/economic opportunities, affordable housing, a clean and attractive natural environment, friendly people, well maintained infrastructure, and a sense of community among residents. Over one-half of the respondents say each of these characteristics are absolutely essential in a community in order for them to have a high quality of life. • Over one-third say the following are present to a great extent in their current community: a quality school system, lack of urban congestion, a clean and attractive natural environment, sense of personal safety, and friendly people.
• Older respondents are more likely than younger respondents to say that each characteristic is present in their community to a great extent. For example, 60 percent of the respondents age 65 and older state that a quality school system describes their community to a great extent. However, only 31 percent of the persons age 19 to 29 share this opinion.
• Residents of smaller communities are more likely than residents of larger communities to say they have many social dimensions present in their community to a great extent. Persons living in or near smaller communities are more likely than those living in or near larger communities to say their community has the following to a great extent: lack of urban congestion, a quality school system (K - 12), a clean and attractive natural environment, friendly people, a sense of community among residents, and low cost of living.
• Residents of larger communities are more likely than residents of smaller communities to say they have more specialized services. Persons living in or near the largest communities are more likely to say they have the following to a great extent: senior citizen programs, affordable medical services, availability of college classes, a local newspaper willing to report controversial items, child care services, well maintained infrastructure, a willingness to tax and/or raise financial resources locally, recreational opportunities, leadership opportunities, adequate information technology, cultural opportunities, availability of public transportation, and quality jobs/economic opportunities.
• Many differences exist between what rural Nebraskans believe is essential and what is currently present in their community. For most of the characteristics listed, the proportion saying each is absolutely essential is larger than the proportion saying it describes their current community to a great extent. As an example, 63 percent of rural Nebraskans say having quality jobs/economic opportunities is absolutely essential. However, only six percent say their community has this to a great extent.
• Most rural Nebraskans would describe rural Nebraska as having commonly shared values, having strong religious beliefs, work-oriented, self-sufficient, having open spaces, friendly people, peaceful, tough/resilient, and having a strong sense of family.
• Younger respondents are more likely than older respondents to believe that rural Nebraska has a commitment to community. Forty-nine percent of the persons age 19 to 39 say rural Nebraska has a commitment to community. However, only 35 percent of the persons age 65 and older share this opinion.