Date of this Version
Nebraska’s rural communities have experienced many changes in recent years. Depopulation and pressures to consolidate some of their services and government offices are only some of the challenges they are currently facing. How have these changes affected rural Nebraskans’ perceptions of their communities and the services available? 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 3,036 responses to the 1999 Nebraska Rural Poll, the fourth annual effort to take the pulse of rural Nebraskans. Respondents were asked a series of questions about their community. Trends are examined by comparing data from the three previous polls to this year’s results. In addition, comparisons are made among different subgroups of the respondents, e.g., comparisons by community size, region, age, occupation, 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 twenty-eight percent believed it had changed for the better. Only nineteen percent felt their community had changed for the worse.
• The proportion of rural Nebraskans believing their community has changed for the better has steadily decreased since 1996. Thirty-eight percent of the respondents to the 1996 Poll felt their community had changed for the better. This has decreased to twenty-eight percent in 1999. The proportion believing their community has stayed the same has increased since 1996 (from 38% to 53%).
• Persons living in larger communities were more likely than those living in smaller communities to believe their community had changed for the better during the past year. Thirty-eight percent of those living in communities with at least 10,000 people believed their community had improved during the past year, compared to only fourteen percent of those living in communities with less than 100 people.
• The majority of rural Nebraskans believe their communities are friendly, trusting and supportive. Approximately seventy-two percent of the respondents in all four studies rated their community as friendly. The proportion believing their community is trusting and supportive has increased between 1996 and 1999 (from 62% to approximately 65%).
• Persons living in smaller communities were more likely than those living in larger communities to view their community as friendly, trusting and supportive. As an example, seventy-four percent of those living in communities with less than 100 people viewed their community as being supportive, compared to only fifty-eight percent of those living in communities with populations of 10,000 or more.
• Over one-third of rural Nebraskans are dissatisfied with the following services and amenities in their community: entertainment, retail shopping and restaurants. Services viewed most positively included parks and recreation, library services, education (K - 12), and basic medical care services.
• Persons living in smaller communities were more likely than those living in larger communities to be dissatisfied with law enforcement. Thirty-two percent of those living in communities with less than 500 people were dissatisfied with the law enforcement in their community. Only nineteen percent of those living in communities with at least 5,000 people were dissatisfied with their law enforcement.
• Persons living in the Panhandle were more likely than those living in other regions of the state to be dissatisfied with the air service in their community. Forty-five percent of those living in this region expressed dissatisfaction with the air service in their community, compared to sixteen percent of those living in the Southeast region of the state.
• Only four percent of the respondents are planning to move from their community in the next year. Eight percent were uncertain about their migration plans and eighty-eight percent had no plans to move in the next year. These proportions remained fairly stable compared to last year.
• The expected destination of those planning to move changed between 1998 and 1999. In 1998, sixty-two percent of those planning to move intended to stay in Nebraska. However, in 1999 only forty-eight percent of the movers planned to stay in the state.
• The groups more likely to be planning to move from their community include the younger persons and those who have never married.