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Kaiser Family Foundation/Washington Post Partnership Survey Probes Experiences and Views of Rural Americans

Jobs Are Major Concern for Rural Residents: Two Thirds Rate Local Job Market as Fair or Poor, and Most Would Encourage Young People to Leave for Opportunities Elsewhere

A new partnership survey of rural and small town America conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation and The Washington Post gauges the views and experiences of people living in these communities and how they compare to those of urban and suburban residents. The survey finds that while rural Americans express a sense of shared values with their neighbors, they are deeply concerned about a lack of jobs in their communities and hold starkly different views from city-dwellers on issues like immigration.

Featured in articles in The Washington Post this week, the survey sheds light on the experiences, priorities and political views of people living in rural counties, which President Trump carried by a far larger margin in 2016 than other recent Republican presidential candidates did in earlier elections. As part of the project, the two organizations also conducted focus groups with voters in rural Ashtabula County, Ohio.

Key findings include:

  • When asked to name the biggest problem facing their community, the largest share of rural residents cite the lack of jobs (21%), followed by drug abuse (14%) and the economy in general (8%). Few (2%) name health care costs or access issues as their community’s top problem.
  • Two-thirds (67%) rate local job opportunities as fair or poor, compared with about half (47%) of urban residents.
  • Most (59%) rural residents say they would encourage young people in their community to leave for more opportunity elsewhere. Fewer urban (41%) and suburban (47%) residents would encourage young people to do so.
  • Rural residents hold starkly different views of immigration compared with urban residents. One example: About four in 10 (42%) rural residents say that immigrants are a burden on the country, nearly three times the share of urban residents (16%) who say so.
  • Rural residents also feel that their community has a sense of shared values that are different from people in big cities: Three quarters (74%) say other people in rural communities have similar values to their own, while two-thirds (65%) say people who live in big cities hold different values.

The new Kaiser/Post Survey of Rural America is the 31st in a series of surveys over the past 20 years conducted as part of The Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation Survey Project. Researchers at the two organizations jointly designed and analyzed the survey, which was conducted by cellular and landline telephone April 13-May 1 among a random sample of 1,686 adults ages 18 and over, including 1,070 living in rural counties, 307 in suburban counties, and 303 in suburban counties. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points for rural residents, 7 percentage points for urban residents, and 6.5 percentage points for suburban residents.

Full survey results are available on the Foundation’s website. The Washington Post articles are available at washingtonpost.com.

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.