Rural Nebraskans feel the country is more divided, according to the latest Rural Poll

Oct. 20, 2023, 1:35 p.m. ·

two large grain bins sit behind a used care shop in Central City, NE
The 2023 Rural Poll shows political divisions are serious concerns for rural Nebraskans. (Photo by Grant Gerlock, Nebraska Public Media News/Harvest Public Media)

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About two-thirds of Rural Nebraskans’ think a lack of civil discourse is a somewhat serious (33%) or very serious (32%) problem in America. That’s according to the latest results of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Rural Poll.

UNL professor, L.J. McElravy, says this feeling of missing constructive forums reflects interparty and intraparty conflict in the state capitol and in Washington D.C..

“I think it speaks to what's currently happening broadly within our political systems, whether at the state or national level,” McElravy said. “When we see what's going on right now in the House of Representatives, the tension that exists — not just across party lines but even within parties — is something that I think is really quite palpable for rural Nebraskans.”

McElravy said the poll questions were asked in May and June of this year. He estimates that the answers would be even worse if asked today.

“The fact that 94 percent of our respondents believe Americans are more (22%) or much more (72%) divided over politics today than they were ten years ago, that's a big proportion of rural Nebraska that have solidified beliefs about just how divided we are,” McElravy said.

Other topics and issues

Despite lacking belief in state and federal leaders, McElravy said rural Nebraskans are confident in their local communities’ abilities to get things done.

“Two-thirds believe local community leaders do at least moderately well at overcoming differences to get things done,” the poll said. “However, four in ten (40%) believe the same about Nebraska’s political leaders and only nine percent say America’s political leaders do at least moderately well at that. Outside of leadership, most (69%) also believe people in their local community do at least moderately well at overcoming differences to get things done.”

He said rural Nebraskans surveyed also don’t have much confidence in the economy improving. Until that changes, McElravy said rural Nebraskans will likely feel uneasy.

“The past year continued to be challenging for rural Nebraskans. Inflation continues to impact household budgets. Low unemployment has caused many businesses to struggle to fill openings,” the poll said.

A total of 1,100 people living in 86 counties in Nebraska responded to the poll.