According to a new report released by the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Center for Public Affairs Research (CPAR), metro-area residents in Nebraska have identified key areas for improvement in their communities, namely personal safety, economic success and community leadership.
The report is the third from the 2014 Nebraska Metro Poll, which was conducted by CPAR, and examines satisfaction with aspects of personal and community life as well as perceived necessities for having a successful community. Comparisons were made to perceptions of how well those needs were currently being met.
More than 1,100 participants were surveyed across Nebraska’s counties in the Omaha and Lincoln metro areas, including Cass, Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy, Saunders, Seward and Washington.
Across all age groups and locations, a large majority of respondents reported a strong sense of personal satisfaction with personal relationships, including their marriage (89.6 percent), family (89.5 percent) and friends (81.5) but less so in terms of financial security (46.3 percent), job opportunities (49.3) and the ability to build wealth (50.5).
David Drozd, Research Coordinator at CPAR and author of the report, says these numbers are concerning, particularly because Nebraska has one of the country’s lowest unemployment rates and lowest cost of living averages.
“These numbers indicate a sense for many of Nebraska’s metro residents that while their current situation may be better than the nation at large, there is still a feeling that the proverbial bubble may burst.”
Jobs and economic opportunities were identified as the top “absolutely essential” element to having a strong community by survey respondents (84.3 percent) followed by a sense of personal safety (82.6), quality school systems (73.5), available medical services (71.5) and affordable housing (71.4).
When asked if the characteristics were currently present in their community, only 24 percent stated jobs and economic opportunities existed to “a great extent”, creating a 60-point gap between what existed and the 84 percent who deemed jobs “absolutely essential”. Other areas on concern included infrastructure (51-point gap), personal safety (47-point gap) and effective community leadership (41-point gap).
Drozd found that the numbers were often affected by age, income level and race, among other factors.
“There were some obvious patterns towards particular areas in terms of necessity to a strong community, with older residents more concerned about medical care and younger residents more concerned with financial stability,” he said. Additionally, older residents placed more importance on various social aspects for their community to be successful, such as a strong church/religious community, having a sense of community among residents, cultural opportunities, as well as a clean and attractive natural environment.
As a more in-depth look at the results released in December 2014, Drozd explains that these numbers should prove useful to local and regional decision makers as indicators of what concerns exist within their communities and how those concerns shift across demographic categories.
“When a new policy or legislative change is introduced for a community, there may be a sense that it addresses a particular concern, but what may be a major concern for one group may not be as important to another,” Drozd said. “This report found metro residents were generally satisfied with aspects of their personal and community life, but that room for improvement exists, especially regarding personal safety and infrastructure such as street conditions.”
A full version of the report is available at the CPAR website.
For questions and media requests, please contact Charley Reed, UNO Associate Director of Media Relations, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402.554.2129.
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Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.