CARI: Center for Applied Rural Innovation


Date of this Version

August 2004


Published by the Center for Applied Rural Innovation, University of Nebraska – Lincoln. Copyright © 2004 by J. Allen, R. Vogt, and R. Cantrell.


Nebraska’s economy has begun to improve but the drought has continued to linger in some parts of the state. How have these changes affected rural Nebraskans? How do rural Nebraskans perceive their quality of life? Do their perceptions differ by community size, the region in which they live, or their occupation?

This report details 2,915 responses to the 2004 Nebraska Rural Poll, the ninth annual effort to understand rural Nebraskans’ perceptions. Respondents were asked a series of questions regarding their individual well-being. Trends for these questions are examined by comparing data from the eight previous polls to this year’s results. In addition, 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 positive about their current situation than they were last year. This year, 36 percent believe they are better off then they were five years ago, compared to only 27 percent in 2003. Also, the percent saying they are worse off then they were five years ago decreased from 30 percent to 23 percent. The proportion saying they remained about the same declined slightly from 43 percent to 41 percent.

When looking to the future, rural Nebraskans are more positive than they were last year. The proportion believing they will be better off ten years from now increased from 31 percent to 37 percent. Conversely, the proportion that think they will be worse off decreased from 26 percent to 23 percent. The percent saying they will be about the same also decreased from 43 percent to 41 percent.

Farmers and ranchers are less optimistic about their future situation than persons with different occupations. Only 38 percent of the farmers and ranchers think they will be better off ten years from now. In comparison, 51 percent of the persons with professional occupations say they will be better off. The farmers and ranchers are the occupation group most likely to say they will remain about the same ten years from now.

Persons with lower educational levels are more likely than persons with more education to believe that people are powerless to control their own lives. Fifty-three percent of the persons without a high school diploma agree that people are powerless to control their own lives. However, only 20 percent of the persons with a four-year college degree share this opinion.

Rural Nebraskans report being most satisfied with their family, their religion/spirituality and friends. They are most dissatisfied with their financial security during retirement, their current income level and their job opportunities.

• Females are more likely than males to report being dissatisfied with their job opportunities.
Fifty percent of females are dissatisfied with their job opportunities, compared to only 37 percent of the males.