A new survey published Tuesday by the Center for Rural Affairs reflects views about the economy and federal government that are held by people living in rural communities and small towns in the U.S.
A survey of roughly 800 registered voters in rural communities and small towns of the Midwest, Great Plains and South finds sentiments are largely optimistic about the future but skeptical about what goes on in Washington.
The telephone survey was held May 28 through June 3 by Lake Research Partners in conjunction with the Center for Rural Affairs. Thirteen percent of those polled say they live on a farm or ranch, 42% in a rural community and the remaining 45% in a small town. Only 17% say they rely on farming, ranching or agriculture in whole or in part for 25% or more of their total family income.
Ten of the report findings appear below. Click this link and then scroll to the bottom of the page to view a PDF with the complete findings and to learn more about the limitations of the study.
- Half of all respondents agree with the statement, "Owning my own business or farm is a big part of the American Dream for me." *
- About half of all respondents agree that farm subsidies benefit the whole rural and small-town economy and should be protected in the federal budget (49%). Meanwhile, 57% say too many of those subsidies go to the largest farms, hurting smaller family farms. A total of 40% say too many tax dollars are spent on farm subsidies that don’t help most people in small-town America.*
- While 44% of respondents say their family economic situation has gotten much or somewhat worse over the past four years, 47% say they expect that situation to get much or somewhat better in the next four years. Thirty-two percent expect it to get much or somewhat worse, while 14% expect it to stay about the same. (Half the sample was asked both questions.)
- Fifty-three percent of respondents say they have some or a little control over their economic situation, followed by 24% who say they have a great deal or a lot of control, and 22% who say they have no control.
- Of the issues posed to all respondents, top concerns included being able to afford health care (49%), being able to save enough to retire (43%) and having earnings, wages or salary cut back (41%)*
- Stability ranked as the most important component of the rural economy (37%), followed by security (28%) and opportunity (25%).
- Respondents say they hold the government most responsible for rural America’s economy (43%), followed by the rich (23%). Rural people and don’t know tied at 14%, rounded out by suburbs and cities at 6%.
- While 54% say the rural and small-town way of life is dying, 80% say that way of life is worth fighting for and protecting.*
- A majority of respondents think federal government policies have some or a lot of influence on the rural and small-town economy (76%), following by 19% who say that the federal government has a little influence or nothing at all.
- Programs supported by a majority of respondents include job training for the working poor (89%); loans, tax credits and training for farms as well as small and owner-operated businesses (89%); quality preschool programs for lower-income children (85%).
Note: All percentages for bullet points ending in an asterisk (*) reflect respondents who qualified their response with a rating between 8 and 10, indicating strong agreement with the statement.