Data That Matters - NU’s Nebraska Rural Poll
The Nebraska Rural Poll is an annual survey sent out across Nebraska to focus on issues like community, government policy, well-being and work. The Community Vitality Initiative (CVI), part of Nebraska Extension, partners with the UNL Department of Agricultural Economics and the NU Rural Futures Institute to gather the voice of rural Nebraskans and relay the findings to state lawmakers. The only one of its kind in the nation, the goal of the Poll is to give local and state leaders a better understanding of the issues, challenges and concerns of Nebraska’s rural citizens.
Each year, rural citizens and government officials form an advisory committee that identifies key issues and topics for the survey. The survey is sent out randomly, and reports are compiled by numerous stakeholders. The Rural Poll provides answers to core questions and insights about trends and changes occurring in rural Nebraska.
According to CVI team member Randy Cantrell, “The rural poll is relatively inexpensive and it is worth doing because of its historical value.” Over twenty years of data is recorded through the Rural Poll and from the results, regional reports of differing community sizes can be generated. “It puts controversial issues on the table where assumptions are made for a general population, and provides data that not all Nebraskans think in the typical conservative way,” commented Cantrell.
Cantrell also points out that offering data to a community is beneficial. “If the community looks at this, they can have options and include it in their discussion. It’s [the data] valuable only if you use it,” said Cantrell. A 2016 report showed that the smaller the community, the happier or greater the satisfaction of its people and that small communities are key to Nebraskans satisfaction with life. A more recent 2018 report shows the trends of well-being in nonmetropolitan areas of Nebraska.
“We have the answers, so how do we teach the leaders in the community to make improvements,” said Cantrell. “We [CVI] knows what works.”
Since 1996, the Rural Poll has been a great asset to CVI and its partners in helping communities understand what Nebraskans want. Cantrell adds, “Information and data matters. And those who seek help from CVI can understand the data and use it to benefit them in making future decision affecting their community.”
For more information about the Nebraska Rural Poll or to contact one of its CVI team members, visit https://ruralpoll.unl.edu/.