OMAHA – Nebraskans agree that crime is the most important issue facing metro communities and job opportunities are the most important issue facing rural communities, this according to a new report from the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) Center for Public Affairs Research (CPAR).
The report evaluates open-ended questions asking what the top concerns are for metro and rural communities. The responses were taken from UNO’s Metro Poll and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s (UNL) Rural Poll, both of which were released in August 2014.
Key findings from the report include that while common concerns were found in responses from both metro and rural residents, how often specific issues were mentioned differed between those living in metro and rural areas.
Findings showed that when asked what concerns metro residents had about their communities, 18 percent of the responses indicated crime and violence as the top concern, which was 8 percent higher than the next most common answer: high taxes. However, rural responses were even more likely to list crime as the top concern for metropolitan communities at 25 percent, which was more than three times as high as the next highest concern: improving government.
Crime was also mentioned more than any other issue for metro areas by respondents in both polls, with nearly half of Metro Poll participants (46 percent) and more than a third (34 percent) of Rural Poll participants identifying crime as a top concern for metro communities.
Comparatively, findings showed that metro and rural residents were both more likely to indicate employment issues, including wages and local business retention, as a top concern for rural communities. The issue was the top response in 8.6 percent of Metro Poll responses and 13.7 percent of Rural Poll responses.
Employment was also mentioned most often as a rural concern across both polls, with nearly one third of Rural Poll participants (31.1 percent) and 15.8 percent of Metro Poll participants mentioning the issue.
The Metro Poll received nearly 1,150 survey responses across the seven Nebraska counties that comprise the Omaha and Lincoln metro areas: Cass, Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy, Saunders, Seward, and Washington. The Rural Poll received 1,943 responses from the remaining 86 Nebraska counties.
This is the first year that the Nebraska Rural Poll and the Nebraska Metro Poll coordinated to ask the same questions so that comparisons could be made.
“We wanted to provide another tool for community leaders and citizens to understand how they can address local needs,” said David Drozd, Research Coordinator at CPAR. “It also provides researchers and decision makers with a more consistent way to compare the views of urban and rural communities, in this case finding some similarities and certain differences in the most important problems they feel should be addressed.”
One of those key differences is that while 7.7 percent of Metro Poll responses indicated agriculture issues, including water, as the top concern for rural residents, which was third only behind jobs and healthcare, only 2.9 percent of Rural Poll responses indicated it as a top concern – not even breaking the top 10.
“These findings suggest that the perceptions of nonlocals about other parts of the state differ from the day‐to‐day experiences of local residents,” said Abby Heithoff, the report’s lead author. “This is a significant issue, especially in the Unicameral, which is about evenly split between rural and metro districts. Policy makers should take note of how perceptions drive the public debate and the public’s views and priorities.”
Key similarities were found on the issues of taxes and drug use.
For example, the issue of high taxes was the second most popular response both in Metro Poll responses for metro concerns and Rural Poll responses for rural concerns. However, both metro and rural Nebraskans were about twice as likely to identify high taxes as a problem for their local community as they were for the nonlocal area (approximately 10 percent of responses compared to approximately 5 percent).
“This shows a pattern of self‐interest, as both metro and rural areas think high taxes should be tackled locally before they are addressed in other parts of the state,” Drozd said.
Another finding in the new report shows that while gangs were mentioned as a concern for metro areas at a similar percentage across both polls, Metro Poll respondents included gangs as one of their top three concerns at a rate more than three times higher than Rural Poll respondents (16.4 percent to 5.2 percent).
Drugs, on the other hand, were consistently viewed across both polls as a concern for both metro and rural areas with about 10 percent of respondents in both polls listing it as a problem to address in each area.
The full report can be found online at CPAR’s website.
For questions about the report’s findings, please contact Drozd at 402.554.2132 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
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.