Rural Nebraskans Positive About Communities

But concerns surface about the future.

Rural Nebraskans continue to feel generally positive about their communities, even as they recognize some of the shortcomings of rural life, according to the 2007 Nebraska Rural Poll.

Those shortcomings--and the fact that rural populations are aging, and younger people are less tied to small-town life--create some concern about rural Nebraska's future, say University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers who conducted the 12th annual poll.

The poll asked respondents a series of questions about their feelings toward their communities, including their satisfaction with services and if they had plans to move from their communities in the next year. Surveys were mailed in March to about 6,400 randomly selected households in Nebraska's 84 rural counties. Results are based on 2,680 responses.

Generally, responses to these quality of life questions continue recent trends reflecting growing satisfaction among rural Nebraskans:

Forty-four percent of respondents said they're better off than they were five years ago, compared with 39% a year ago and a 12-year low of 32% in 2003. Only 15% said they're worse off; that's down from 19% in 2006 and a high of 28% in 2003.

Forty-one percent expect to be better off 10 years from now, while 18% expect to be worse off, which is identical to last year's findings.

Thirty-three percent said they'd seen positive change in their communities, the same as last year; that's up from a low of 23% in 2003. Twenty-two percent said their community had changed for the worse, the same percentage as last year, while 45% said they saw no change.

Most rural Nebraskans rated their community favorably on its social dimensions—72% citing friendliness, 59% trusting and 65% supportive, for example.

Most expressed positive sentiments about their community. About two-thirds agreed with the statement, "My community is very special to me," and 62% agreed with the statement, "I feel I can really be myself in my community."

Read more about the poll results on Monday's Nebraska Farmer Web site.

Complete poll results are available online at cari.unl.edu/ruralpoll/.

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