CARI: Center for Applied Rural Innovation


Date of this Version

August 1998


Published by the Center for Applied Rural Innovation, University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Copyright © 1998 by J. Allen, R. Filkins, S. Cordes, and E. Jarecki.


Nebraska’s rural communities have undergone many changes in recent years. The development of a global economy and pressures to consolidate services and government offices are some of the challenges that rural communities are currently facing. How have these changes affected rural Nebraskans’ perceptions of their communities? Do their perceptions differ by the size of their community, the region in which they live, or by their occupation?

This report details results of 4,196 responses to the 1998 Nebraska Rural Poll, the third annual effort to take the pulse of rural Nebraskans. Respondents were asked a series of questions about their community and their preferred community size. Trends are examined by comparing data from the two previous polls to this year’s results. In addition, comparisons are made among different subgroups of the respondents, e.g., comparisons by age, occupation, income, etc. Based on these analyses, some key findings emerged:

• Most rural Nebraskans believe their community has either stayed the same or changed for the better during the past year. Over one-half (53%) of the respondents felt their community had stayed the same during the past year and thirty-one percent believed it had changed for the better. Only seventeen percent felt their community had changed for the worse.

• The proportion of rural Nebraskans who said their community has changed for the worse has decreased since 1996; however, the proportion stating their community has changed for the better has also decreased. Thirty-eight percent of the 1996 respondents felt their community had stayed the same, while fifty-three percent of the 1998 respondents shared this opinion.

• Overall, rural communities are described as friendly, trusting, and supportive. Seventy-two percent of the respondents felt their community was friendly and sixty-three percent believed their community was both trusting and supportive.

• The majority of rural Nebraskans feel that everyone is allowed to contribute to governmental affairs in their community and disagree that differences of opinion on public issues are avoided. Seventy-five percent of the respondents either strongly agreed or agreed that most everyone in their community is allowed to contribute to local governmental affairs if they want to. Sixty-two percent disagreed or strongly disagreed that differences of opinion on public issues are avoided at all costs in their community.

• Over one-third of rural Nebraskans are dissatisfied with the following services and amenities in their community: entertainment, retail shopping, restaurants, and streets. Services viewed most positively included library services, parks and recreation, education (K - 12), and basic medical care services.

• Respondents living in the Panhandle were much more likely than respondents in other regions to be dissatisfied with air service. Fifty-three percent of respondents in this region were very or somewhat dissatisfied with air service, compared to only fifteen percent of the respondents in the Southeast region.

• Only three percent of rural Nebraskans are planning to leave their community in the next year. Younger respondents, those living in the larger communities, and manual laborers were the respondents most likely to be planning to move. Of those planning to move, sixty-two percent planned to stay in Nebraska.

• Rural Nebraskans tend to prefer the following community sizes (ranked by proportion selecting each): living in the country, a smaller city (10,000 to 49,999 in population), and a town/village 1,000 to 4,999 in population. Within these general preferences there was a marked tendency for rural residents in smaller towns to prefer smaller rural towns, for those living in larger rural towns to prefer larger towns, etc. The least preferred community size was a large city. Only one percent of rural Nebraskans would prefer to live in a place with population in excess of 500,000.

• A majority of rural Nebraskans would prefer to live within 30 miles of a larger city. Sixty-six percent of the respondents that chose a preferred community size less than 50,000 would like that place to be within 30 miles of a large or medium-sized city.

• Current residence, satisfaction with health services, satisfaction with consumer services, community social attributes, satisfaction with transportation services and satisfaction with environmental services influence preferred community size. Respondents largely prefer their current community size. In addition, respondents satisfied with health and environmental services, those dissatisfied with transportation and consumer services, and respondents rating their communities as unfriendly, distrusting and hostile tend to prefer larger community sizes.