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Rural Poll shows Nebraskans split on community views
Metropolitan and nonmetropolitan residents don’t always see eye to eye when it comes to attributes of successful communities and well-being, according to recent polling by the Nebraska Rural and Metro Polls.
The Nebraska Rural Poll sampled residents from non-metropolitan counties and regional trade centers in the state. The Nebraska Metro Poll sampled the seven counties that comprise the Lincoln and Omaha metropolitan areas. Both polls were conducted in 2014.
Comparison of the results shows residents of metropolitan counties are more likely to view adequate information technology, recreation opportunities and available college classes as being essential in a community. Residents of nonmetropolitan counties are more likely to view a strong religious community as essential.
In addition, while similar proportions of both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan residents believe available medical services are essential, a larger proportion of metropolitan residents believe they exist to a great extent.
Health care in rural areas is changing, according to Nebraska Extension specialist Cheryl Burkhart. “In the past, every small community seemed to have a hospital whereas today you may see a clinic with visiting physicians and health-care workers,” she said. “What is often hidden to many residents is that the clinics and smaller hospitals are linked to larger regional health-care institutions that are investing in their infrastructure to accommodate the new model.”
Metropolitan residents are more likely than nonmetropolitan residents to see a need for more well-maintained infrastructure and sense of personal safety in their community. Areas that both metropolitan and nonmetropolitan residents view as opportunities for improvement include effective community leadership, a quality school system and low cost of living.
When it comes to well-being, both polls asked residents if they are better or worse off than they were five years ago and if they expect to be better or worse off 10 years from now. Residents of metropolitan counties are more likely than residents of nonmetropolitan counties to say they are better off than they were five years ago and will be better off in 10 years.
Part of this pessimism displayed by nonmetropolitan residents may be explained by the decreased levels of satisfaction with job opportunities and financial security during retirement when compared to metropolitan responses. In addition, nonmetropolitan residents are more likely to express feelings of powerlessness about the future.
“The residents of Nebraska’s smallest communities are those most likely to agree that individuals are powerless to shape their futures, while the residents of the largest nonmetropolitan communities are more likely to disagree with such statements,” said Randy Cantrell, rural sociologist with the Nebraska Rural Futures Institute. “In the more rural places, residents are less likely to observe a lot of economic growth or new development, such as new housing or new businesses. For residents of these communities, it seems likely that experience tends to limit the level of confidence that they have in the future.”
In both surveys, differences were detected by household income, age and education level. Persons with higher household incomes are more likely than persons with lower incomes to believe they are better off compared to five years ago and will be better off 10 years from now. Younger persons are more likely than older persons to believe they are better off compared to five years ago and will be better off 10 years from now.
Nonmetropolitan residents are more likely than metropolitan residents to be satisfied with personal safety, environmental items, religion, transportation and job security. On the other hand, metropolitan residents are more likely to express satisfaction with housing, health, community, job opportunity and financial security during retirement.
The two polls were a coordinated effort between UNL and the Center for Public Affairs Research at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
UNL’s Department of Agricultural Economics conducts the Rural Poll in cooperation with the Nebraska Rural Futures Institute with funding from UNL Extension and the Agricultural Research Division in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.