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89% of rural Nebraskans think infectious diseases will have major impact

August 6, 2020 GMT

Most rural Nebraskans agreed that infectious diseases will have a major impact in the country in the next few years, with 51% indicating a lack of confidence in the federal government’s ability to contain a national outbreak, according to the 2020 Nebraska Rural Poll.

Those living in or near larger communities were more confident in their local emergency management authorities to contain a widespread infectious outbreak.

The annual poll, conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Agricultural Economics, was sent to 7,000 rural households across the state in April, just as the spread of the coronavirus was closing schools and businesses.

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About one-third of those households responded to the survey, which also had questions focused on community preparedness for emergencies and individuals’ financial resilience.

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More than six in 10 respondents agreed that people in their community help each other (82%), that their community can overcome an emergency (76%), that people work together to improve their community (69%) and that there is trust among residents of their community (63%).

But perceptions of community resilience varied by region, organizers of the poll said in a news release.

Respondents from the Panhandle were least likely to agree with certain statements, including that their community looks at its successes and failures and that residents trust public officials.

When asked if they would be able to come up with $3,000 in the next month to deal with an emergency, 54% of respondents said they could tap into savings.

But among those with a household income of less than $40,000, those who are divorced or separated and those who work in food service or personal care occupations, three in 10 respondents said it would not be possible to use savings to cover a $3,000 emergency.

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“Although not shocking, the results drive home the importance of money and education in how people think about hardships in their community and finances,” said L.J. McElravy, associate professor of youth civic leadership at UNL.

The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus 2%.

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