Nebraska’s economy has begun to improve during recent years. How have these changes affected rural Nebraskans? How do rural Nebraskans perceive their quality of life? Do their perceptions differ by community size, the region in which they live, or their occupation? Who do they feel comfortable talking to about their personal problems? What factors are most important to rural Nebraskans when selecting a behavioral health service provider?
This report details 2,851 responses to the 2005 Nebraska Rural Poll, the tenth annual effort to understand rural Nebraskans’ perceptions. Respondents were asked a series of questions regarding their individual well-being. Trends for these questions are examined by comparing data from the nine previous polls to this year’s results. In addition, comparisons are made among different respondent subgroups, that is, comparisons by age, occupation, region, etc. Based on these analyses, some key findings emerged:
• Rural Nebraskans’ views about their current situation did not change much from last year. This year, 39 percent believe they are better off then they were five years ago, compared to 36 percent in 2004. The percent saying they are worse off then they were five years ago decreased from 23 percent to 18 percent. This year, 43 percent say they remained about the same, compared to 41 percent last year.
• When looking to the future, rural Nebraskans’ views remained about the same as last year. The proportion believing they will be better off ten years from now remained the same as last year (37%). This year, 21 percent think they will be worse off, compared to 23 percent last year. Forty-two percent state they will be about the same, compared to 41 percent last year.
• Manual laborers and persons with service occupations are more pessimistic about their future situation than persons with different occupations. Approximately 26 percent of manual laborers and persons with service occupations believe they will be worse off ten years from now. Approximately 11 percent of persons with either sales or professional occupations share this opinion.
• Persons with lower educational levels are more likely than persons with more education to believe that people are powerless to control their own lives. Forty-two percent of persons with a high school diploma or less education agree that people are powerless to control their own lives. However, only 17 percent of persons with a four-year college degree share this opinion.
• Rural Nebraskans generally report being satisfied with most aspects of their lives, with the exception of five economic variables (their financial security during retirement, their current income level, their job opportunities, their job security and their job satisfaction).
• Younger persons are more likely than older persons to express dissatisfaction with their current income level. Fifty-five percent of persons age 19 to 29 are dissatisfied with their current income level. In comparison, only 30 percent of persons age 65 and older are dissatisfied with their current income.
• Rural Nebraskans are most comfortable talking to a family member, a close friend, a medical doctor or a member of the clergy about their personal problems. At least onehalf report they are comfortable talking to the following people about their personal problems: family member (82%), close friend (79%), a medical doctor (70%) and a member of the clergy (61%). When asked about their comfort level in talking to either a mental health professional or a substance abuse counselor, a significant proportion of the respondents answered “no opinion.”
• The most important factors in selecting a behavioral health service provider for rural Nebraskans include: the provider is licensed, the provider is covered by a third-party payer and that the provider is close to their home. The proportion rating the factors as important are as follows: provider is licensed (79%), provider is covered by a third-party payer (e.g., insurance, vouchers, Medicare, Medicaid) (75%) and the provider is close to my home (66%).