Date of this Version
Many rural communities have experienced population and economic declines during the past decade. In addition, many have an aging population that leaves them struggling to remain viable. However, new technological improvements offer the potential for business growth in these areas. Given these changes, how do rural Nebraskans feel about their community? Are they planning to move from their community in the next year? Are they investing their time and money in their community?
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 regarding their community and their plans to move or stay in their community. Trends for the community questions are examined by comparing data from the six previous polls to this year’s results. For all questions, comparisons are made among different respondent subgroups, i.e., comparisons by age, occupation, region, etc. Based on these analyses, some key findings emerged:
• Rural Nebraskans are more negative about the change in their communities this year. This year, 24 percent believe their community has changed for the better, a decline from 28 percent last year. And, in 2002, 22 percent think their community has changed for the worse, compared to only 19 percent last year.
• More rural Nebraskans view their community as friendly, trusting and supportive this year as compared to last year. This year, 75 percent rate their community as friendly, compared to 72 percent last year and 68 percent in 2000. The proportion rating their community as trusting increased from 62 percent last year to 65 percent this year. Similarly, the proportion who view their community as being supportive increased from 62 percent in 2001 to 68 percent this year.
• Fewer younger people are planning to move from their community than last year. Last year, 18 percent of the 19 to 29 year olds planned to move from their community in the next year. This year, that proportion declined to 10 percent.
• Rural Nebraskans living in or near larger communities are more likely than those living in or near smaller communities to say their community has changed for the better. Twenty-nine percent of the persons living in or near communities with populations of 10,000 or more say their community has changed for the better during the past year; yet, only 16 percent of the persons living in or near communities with less than 500 people share this opinion.
• The services and amenities that residents are most dissatisfied with include: entertainment, retail shopping, restaurants and city/village government. The services rural Nebraskans are most satisfied with include: parks and recreation, library services, basic medical care services, education (K - 12), and highways and bridges.
• Laborers are more likely than persons with different occupations to be dissatisfied with their city/village government. Forty-three percent of the laborers express dissatisfaction with the government in their city or village. However, only 26 percent of the farmers or ranchers share this opinion.
• Smaller community residents are more likely than residents of larger communities to be dissatisfied with their community’s law enforcement. Thirty-four percent of the persons living in or near communities with less than 500 people express dissatisfaction with their law enforcement, compared to 21 percent of the persons living in or near communities with populations of 5,000 or more.
• Panhandle residents are more likely than persons living elsewhere to express dissatisfaction with their transportation services. As an example, 35 percent of the persons living in the Panhandle are dissatisfied with their airline service, compared to only 13 percent of the residents of the Southeast region.
• Over one-half of rural Nebraskans believe residents volunteering their time to community activities and getting more residents to take leadership roles in the community are very important for their community’s future. Fifty-seven percent say getting more residents in leadership roles is very important for their community’s future. Fifty-four percent believe residents volunteering their time to community activities is very important.
• Smaller community residents are more likely than larger community residents to view residents volunteering their time to community activities as very important to their community’s future. Sixty-three percent of the persons living in or near communities with populations ranging from 500 to 999 believe this is very important, compared to 48 percent of the persons living in or near communities with populations over 10,000.
• The majority of rural Nebraskans have participated in community involvement activities during the past year. Eighty-seven percent have donated money to a local community organization, charity or cause in their community during the past year, 84 percent have belonged to a group or organization in their community and 74 percent have volunteered their time for a group or organization.
• Very few rural Nebraskans have either formally included a community organization or cause in their will or estate plan or intend to do so. Only four percent have already included an organization or cause in their will or estate plan. Eight percent intend to do so, but have not yet formally included the request in their will or estate plan. Forty-eight percent are not sure.
• At least two-thirds of rural Nebraskans would encourage the following groups to move to or remain in their community: elderly persons (77%), their close friends (75%), Nebraskans from other areas of the state (75%), young adults/young families (74%), out of state residents (69%), other relatives and in-laws (68%) and their children (66%). Sixty-three percent would encourage their grandchildren to live in their community, 59 percent would encourage single parent households to move to or remain in their community and 54 percent would encourage members of ethnic minorities to live there.
• Most rural Nebraskans expect to be living in their current community five years from now. Thirty-four percent say they definitely will be living in their community five years from now and an additional 40 percent say they probably will be.