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Researchers and policymakers across the state of Nebraska have often discussed the need for a statewide poll to understand residents’ perceptions of their communities, personal well‐being and community issues. Separate initiatives have periodically surveyed metropolitan and rural Nebraskans on these issues. However, to date, no single effort has obtained statewide coverage at the level necessary to report attitudinal differences across metropolitan and rural Nebraska. The Nebraska Metro and Nebraska Rural Polls represent a unique effort in the state of Nebraska to obtain directly comparable data on statewide residents. This report provides a detailed analysis of a subset of responses to the 2014 Nebraska Metro and Rural Polls.

In 2014, the University of Nebraska at Omaha and University of Nebraska‐Lincoln partnered to conduct similar but distinct polls of metropolitan and nonmetropolitan residents that provided statewide coverage of all 93 Nebraska counties. The polls used a common methodology and nearly identical shared question set, so results from the Metro and Rural Polls are directly comparable. Included on these questionnaires were a set of open‐ended question items. The wording for these questions read as follows in the Metro Poll:

“Q8: In your opinion, what are the three most important problems in the Lincoln and Omaha metro areas that should be addressed?”
“Q9: In your opinion, what are the three most important problems in rural parts of Nebraska that should be addressed?”

The Rural Poll had the same wording but used the opposite order to ask about rural problems first and metro problems second. These questions were designed to gauge the extent to which rural and metro Nebraskans understand and share problems faced in other parts of the state. The questions provided no response options, but instructed respondents to list what they viewed as the top three problems in each area, with numbered blank lines provided for each.

Open‐ended survey questions of this type can be useful for encouraging respondents to give substantive answers that are grounded in their own knowledge base or feelings. Because respondents are answering “off the top of their heads,” these types of questions are useful for tapping into issues commonly faced by community residents. Respondents from the same areas may provide similar answers grounded in shared concerns. However, these types of questions can also elicit surprising responses that provide insight into unexpected issues affecting respondents. This document will summarize the findings from the 2014 Nebraska Metro and Rural Polls related to these open‐ended questions and respondents’ perceptions of problems for metropolitan and rural areas to address.