Date of this Version
Some people support regional collaboration because they believe it better enables communities to increase the region’s economic vitality and quality of life. However, others worry that such collaboration threatens individual communities’ identities and limits citizens’ access to services. How do rural Nebraskans view regional collaboration? Do they support combining certain services with neighboring communities or counties more than others? Are they already purchasing their goods and services outside their local community?
This report details 3,087 responses to the 2003 Nebraska Rural Poll, the eighth annual effort to understand rural Nebraskans’ perceptions. Respondents were asked a series of questions about regional collaboration. Comparisons were made among different respondent subgroups, i.e., comparisons by age, occupation, region, etc. Based on these analyses, some key findings emerged:
• Most rural Nebraskans have a positive view of regional collaboration. At least three-quarters either strongly agreed or agreed that “communities in a region working together to generate new businesses are better able to create quality jobs for their residents” (82%) and “retail businesses in a region can provide a better variety of goods and services by working together collaboratively” (75%). Sixty percent agreed that combining community or county services will improve access to services. Fifty-nine percent disagreed that combining services would lead to lower quality services and 47 percent disagreed that combining services would lead to increased prices for the consumer.
• Persons with higher education levels, younger respondents, persons with higher incomes and females are the groups most likely to have a positive view of regional collaboration.
• At least one-half of rural Nebraskans are willing to raise revenue to keep fire protection and emergency medical services at their current level. When asked how they would cover the costs of various services if faced with a shortage of money, 53 percent were willing to raise revenue to support fire protection services and 50 percent would raise revenue to maintain emergency medical services. Forty-eight percent were willing to raise revenue for their schools (K - 12).
• Over one-half of rural Nebraskans would combine or share the following services with other nearby communities or counties if faced with a shortage of money: county road maintenance, veterans services, health clinic, telecommunications services, economic development activities, licenses and permits, street maintenance, property assessment and county weed control.
• Younger persons are more likely than older persons to support raising revenue to keep their school services at their current level. Seventy-six percent of the persons age 19 to 29 supported raising revenue to keep their school services at their current level. Only 35 percent of the persons age 65 and older supported raising revenue. The older respondents were more likely than the younger respondents to support combining the school with other nearby communities or reducing its level of service. Forty-five percent of the persons age 65 and older supported combining their school with others and 14 percent said they would reduce its level of service. In comparison, only 21 percent of the persons age 19 to 29 supported combining their school with other communities and only two percent supported reducing its level of service.
• Persons living in or near the largest communities are more likely than the persons living in or near the smallest communities to support raising revenue to keep their school services the same. Fifty-two percent of the persons living in or near the communities with populations of 10,000 or more supported raising revenue to keep their school’s services at their current level. Only 39 percent of the persons living in or near communities with less than 500 people supported this option. The persons living in or near the smallest communities were slightly more likely to support combining their school with other communities and were also more likely to not currently have a school in their community.
• Differences in the level of support for various alternatives to cover the costs of law enforcement are detected by community size. Persons living in or near the smallest communities were more likely than the persons living in or near the larger communities to say they don’t have law enforcement. Persons living in or near communities with populations ranging from 500 to 999 were the group most likely to support combining law enforcement services with another community or county. Persons living in or near the largest communities were more likely than the persons living in or near the smaller communities to advocate raising revenue to keep their law enforcement services at their current level.
• Farmers and ranchers are more likely than persons with different occupations to say they would raise revenue to maintain their county roads. Thirty-two percent of the farmers and ranchers would raise revenue to keep their county road maintenance services at their current level. Only 15 percent of the persons with sales and administrative support occupations agreed.
• On average, at least one-half of the following items are purchased by rural Nebraskans in their local community: banking/financial services (75.7%), groceries (73%), automobile/machinery repairs (72%), insurance (67%), farm and ranch inputs (66.9%), doctor/clinic services (63.6%) and hospital services (57.3%).
• For each item, rural Nebraskans living in or near the larger communities purchased more locally than did those living in or near the smaller communities. As an example, persons living in or near the communities with populations of 10,000 or more purchased an average of 96.1% of their groceries in their local community. Persons living in or near communities with less than 500 people purchased an average of 38.2% of their groceries in their local community. For most items, respondents living in the smallest communities purchased at least one-half in another community within 50 miles.
• For most items, Panhandle residents purchased more in their local community than did residents living in other parts of the state. As an example, Panhandle residents purchased an average of 53.5% of their recreation/entertainment in their local community, compared to an average of 38.7% for Southeast residents. But, South Central residents were more likely than other regional groups to have purchased hospital services, banking/financial services and insurance locally.