Rural Nebraskans are optimistic about their communities and would rate many characteristics as good or excellent to someone looking to move there, according to the 2016 Nebraska Rural Poll.
In general over the past 21 years, more rural Nebraskans have believed their community has changed for the better during the past year than those who believed it changed for the worse. In fact, the gap between the two opinions has widened during the past six years.
A similar trend is present when asked how they believe their community will be 10 years from now. The proportion believing it will be a better place to live a decade from now has steadily increased during the past six years, from 20 percent in 2011 to 27 percent this year.
“This trend is both encouraging and important,” said Randy Cantrell, a rural sociologist with the Nebraska Rural Futures Institute. “Those who believe that things are getting better, and will continue to do so, are likely to also be the people who are willing to invest time and resources in order to continue that trend.”
Most rated their city or town as friendly, trusting and supportive – 74, 62 and 65 percent, respectively.
Fifty-two percent say it would be difficult to leave their community, while 32 percent say it would be easy.
Sixty percent disagree that their city or town is powerless to control its future.
When asked to rate items in their community to a person looking to move there, most rural Nebraskans would rate the safety, environment for raising children, natural/outdoor environment, church/religious community, and friendliness or supportiveness of neighbors as excellent.
“It is very encouraging for new resident recruitment to see these attributes listed by our current residents,” said Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, professor and Nebraska Extension community vitality specialist. “In our Nebraska research, those are seen as key pull factors to bring new residents to this state.”
Size impacts rural Nebraskans’ views. Residents of larger cities are more likely than residents of smaller towns to say their community has improved during the past year and are more likely to be optimistic about its future. They are also more likely than residents of smaller towns to disagree that their community is powerless to control its own future. However, residents of smaller towns are more likely to say it would be difficult to leave.
People living in smaller towns are more likely than those living in or near larger cities to rate the following characteristics as excellent to a newcomer: environment for raising children, natural/outdoor environment, sense of community among residents, and cost of living. Other items are more likely to be rated as excellent by persons living in or near larger communities: church/religious community; available outdoor recreational opportunities; civic and nonprofit organizations; arts, entertainment and cultural activities; and available child care services.
Most rural Nebraskans say they have conservative political views on both economic and social issues. They also rate their community’s political views as conservative. Rural Nebraskans view their community’s views on social issues as more conservative than their own.
The Rural Poll is the largest annual poll of rural Nebraskans’ perceptions on quality of life and policy issues. This year’s response rate was 29 percent. The margin of error is plus or minus 2 percent. Complete results are available here.
Although the Grand Island area (Hall, Hamilton, Howard and Merrick counties) was designated a metropolitan area by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2013, the Rural Poll continues to include those counties in its sample. Also, Dixon and Dakota counties were added to the poll last year.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Agricultural Economics conducts the poll in cooperation with the Nebraska Rural Futures Institute, with funding from Nebraska Extension and the Agricultural Research Division in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.