Poll: Rural Nebraskans pessimistic about economy

More than four in 10 respondents to the 2022 Nebraska Rural Poll believe fuel prices,...
More than four in 10 respondents to the 2022 Nebraska Rural Poll believe fuel prices, inflation, grocery prices and health care costs will become much worse in the next 12 months.((Craig Chandler/University Communication and Marketing) University of Nebraska-Lincoln)
Published: Oct. 13, 2022 at 10:40 AM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KSNB) - A survey of rural Nebraskans indicates most are pessimistic about the economy in the next year.

Almost nine in ten people who responded to the poll expect higher inflation, higher gasoline or fuel prices, higher grocery prices and higher interest rates.

A University of Nebraska-Lincoln press release about the poll results also indicated that nearly half of the respondents expect those factors to get much worse.

The Nebraska Rural Poll is done by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 1,105 households in rural Nebraska responded to the poll conducted in May and June.

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, economic growth in Nebraska was steady in early 2022. However, with an increase in inflation, the impact on household budgets and businesses presents some concerns for Nebraskans.

This concern is reflected in the less-than-optimistic perspective regarding the economy over the next 12 months. This is significant because residents’ expectations can impact the economic success of their communities, said Steve Schulz, associate professor of supply chain management at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

“Optimism and hope improve perceptions of successful businesses in rural communities and the ability to attract new companies in the future,” he said.

The questionnaire focused on Nebraska’s economy, from basic economic status to employment characteristics. Overall, 43% of rural Nebraskans surveyed believe their personal financial situation will become worse or much worse during the next year. More than six in 10 respondents with household incomes under $40,000 think their personal financial situation will become worse, compared to just over a quarter of those with the highest household incomes ($100,000 or more).

“This finding is likely because lower-income households spend more of their disposable income on basic goods, such as food, gas and housing, and these are items that are particularly prone to the current round of inflation,” said Brad Lubben, extension associate professor of agricultural economics at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. “While folks may feel confident about their job security given workforce challenges and low unemployment, they are concerned that the living costs are currently rising faster than their compensation.”

That said, few rural Nebraskans surveyed are making or considering employment changes, with only three in 20 respondents actively seeking a better-paying job.

While many rural Nebraskans are not looking to change careers, they still place a significant value on employment characteristics. Characteristics that workers value include a focus on feeling valued; the type of work; safety; autonomy; and opportunities to advance or improve.

“Connecting to our work and valuing it is a part of our culture as Nebraskans,” said Cheryl Burkhart-Kriesel, an associate professor and extension specialist at the Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff. “I think it is in our DNA. You see this historically through our low unemployment rates and our propensity toward multiple job holdings.”

The Rural Poll is the largest annual poll gauging rural Nebraskans’ perceptions about policy and quality of life. The margin of error is plus-or-minus 3%. The University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Department of Agricultural Economics conducts the poll with funding from Rural Prosperity Nebraska and the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources. For the full report, visit https://ruralpoll.unl.edu