What does rural America want?

Rural Americans want to protect their way of life. But they say they can’t do it alone.

Rural Americans say they need help so their way of life does not disappear. (Photo By: iStockphoto)

Rural Americans say they need help so their way of life does not disappear. (Photo By: iStockphoto)

That’s one of the findings from a survey that suggests residents of small towns and communities want a fairer shake from a government they believe has overlooked them.

In fact, while they’re suspicious of big government, more than three-quarters of the respondents supported a government role in job training, renewable energy, and loans and grants to jumpstart economic development.

“Rural Americans do not want to rely on farm subsidies and cutting back taxes to ensure their children’s futures,” according to the survey, conducted for the Nebraska-based Center for Rural Affairs by the bipartisan team of Lake Research Partners and The Tarrance Group.

“Instead they look to job training and preschool education as well as infrastructure investments to be important,” the survey concluded.

The poll of 804 registered voters in rural areas and small towns was conducted May 28-June 3, and represents the most recent and comprehensive look at rural America. The margin of error for the overall sample is plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Contrary to some perceptions, rural America is not an endless landscape of farms and grain silos. Only 18 percent of the respondents said they rely on agriculture, farming or ranching for the bulk of their household income.

“The rural economy is much more diverse than conventional wisdom would suggest. Of the many who live in rural communities or on farms and ranches, few rely on agriculture or farming for their livelihood,” the survey said.

More than half of the respondents felt strongly that the rural way of life―based on values like opportunity, security and stability― is dying. They hold the government responsible for shirking its duty to rural areas at the expense of urban centers and want that to change.

The poll found widespread support for cutting taxes and reducing government red tape. Nearly 90 percent of the respondents backed job training for the working poor, and loans, tax credits and training to help small businesses and farms prosper.

Seventy-eight percent said they strongly support developing wind, solar and other renewable electric generation in rural areas through tax credits, and investing in new transmission lines.

“Rural Americans are divided on the role of government, but neither current ideological perspective (conservatives or progressives) has it right,” the pollsters concluded. “They want more efficient and effective government and view much of public policy as a fairness issue in which rural America has not received fair treatment.”

Source: ECT.coop, a publication of the NRECA