CARI: Center for Applied Rural Innovation


Date of this Version

August 1997


Published by the Center for Applied Rural Innovation, University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Copyright © 1997 by J. Allen, S. Cordes, A. Smith, A. Hamilton, and M. Spilker.


This working paper presents findings from the first annual Nebraska Rural Poll. The study is based on 1,971 responses from households in the 87 nonmetropolitan counties in the state. The objectives of this paper are to provide information on how rural Nebraskans perceive the importance of various programs funded by the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources (IANR). The survey questions about IANR programs were included as a separate one page insert that was included in the large Rural Poll survey booklet. Because the IANR questions were marked “optional,” one must be cautious in drawing definitive conclusions from the responses. It is also important to emphasize that the Nebraska Rural Poll was conducted in March of 1996, and only represents people=s perceptions and opinions as of a specific point in time. Refer to Table 1 in the appendix for the specific questions asked.

The most recent IANR Strategic Plan included 17 specific programmatic thrusts. The respondent was asked to indicate how important he/she felt it was for IANR faculty and staff to be addressing each of these 17 programmatic thrusts (a five-point scale was used ranging from “extremely important” to “not important”). In none of the 17 cases did a large proportion of the respondents indicate an item was “not important.” However, there was considerable variation in the proportion of the respondents indicating that an item was “extremely important.” The 17 items in rank order priority according to the proportion of the respondents indicating the item was “extremely important” follow.

1. (56.8%*) Enhance the development of basic life skills among Nebraska=s children, youth, and adults
2. (51.4%*) Improve food safety and food quality
3. (46.7%*) Reduce soil erosion and improve water quality by developing improved management practices
4. (40.3%*) Contribute to improved human nutrition and health
5. (39.4%*) Provide a scientific basis for developing land and water use policies and practices of importance to Nebraska
6. (38.9%*) Enhance environmental quality and improve the sustainability of resource systems
7. (37.6%*) Provide programs to enhance the development of new businesses
8. (34.9%*) Enhance the value-added processing of agricultural commodities and waste materials
9. (33.5%*) Improve plant and animal health through integrated pest management and other sustainable practices
10. (32.0%*) Partnership with others to improve the resiliency of families and the viability of communities
11. (28.6%*) Develop profitable and sustainable plant and animal systems
12. (28.6%*) Contribute to commodity and product marketing and economic development
13. (26.4%*) Emphasize leadership development programs
14. (24.7%*) Develop ecosystem improvement programs consistent with enhanced biodiversity
15. (23.4%*) Create education programs that address the integration of resource needs with the carrying capacity of natural resource systems
16. (21.1%*) Enhance the understanding of plant and animal biology fundamentals
17. (17.1%*) Provide programs to enhance rural and urban landscapes
* Percent indicating the item was “extremely important” after excluding those who did not understand what the programmatic thrust meant. Extremely important was defined to include those who circled item “1” on the five-point response scale.

Other selected findings follow:
• For most of the 17 programmatic thrusts, a smaller proportion of farmers than non-farmers thought the item was “important*”
• With one exception, a larger proportion of respondents living in town in comparison to out of town felt each programmatic thrust was “important*”
• A higher proportion of respondents with low to moderate incomes felt “enhancing basic life skills” was “important*” compared to those with higher incomes
• A smaller proportion of respondents with lower educational levels felt the IANR programmatic thrusts were “important*” in comparison to those with higher educational levels • No major and systematic differences were detected in response patterns between regions of the state, and among age groups
• Nearly one-fourth of the respondents simply did not understand one of the programmatic thrusts: “Develop ecosystem improvements consistent with enhanced biodiversity”
• A higher proportion of both women and individuals with lower incomes indicated they “did not understand” the programmatic thrust (although the proportions were relatively small)