Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Poll shows rural Americans are worried about opioid addiction and the economy but remain optimistic

Rural Americans believe that drug addiction or abuse and economic issues are the biggest problems facing rural areas, but most say they value rural life and are optimistic about the future, according to the 'Life in Rural America' survey by NPR, Harvard University's T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Key findings:
  • 57 percent of respondents agreed opioid addiction is a serious problem in their community, and 49 percent personally know someone who has struggled with it.
  • 23 percent of rural adults said drug addiction or abuse is the biggest health problem in their community, followed by cancer (12 percent) and access to care (11 percent).
  • Appalachian residents, especially were more likely to say that drug abuse is the biggest problem in their community (41 percent) than respondents from other rural areas.
  • White Appalachians are more worried about the opioid epidemic: 52 percent said the opioid epidemic has gotten worse in their community in the past five years, compared to 32 percent of African-Americans and 30 percent of Latinx respondents.
  • Nationwide, 48 percent of respondents said the opioid epidemic has gotten worse in their community in the past five years, and 40 percent said it has remained about the same; 5 percent said it has gotten better in the past five years.
  • 55 percent of respondents rated the local economy as only fair or poor.
  • 64 percent said the most helpful thing for the local economy would be better long-term job creation. Good ways to do that? 61 percent believe improving local schools would help, 55 percent believe improving access to health care would help, and 51 percent recommend making sure advanced job training is available. 
  • 52 percent said they're active in solving their community's problems, with younger adults participating more.
  • 81 percent said they feel attached to their community, and 67 percent said neighbors have helped them in times of need.
  • 42 percent said their lives are turning out as they expected, and 41 percent said their lives are turning out better than they expected. 15 percent said their lives are worse than they thought they would be.
  • 54 percent said they're better off financially than their parents were at the same age.
  • 55 percent of rural parents said they think their children will be better off financially compared with themselves.
  • 42 percent of parents with children over 18 said their children have moved out of their hometown, and another 16 percent said some of their children moved away and some stayed.
  • Of the grown children who moved away, 61 percent went to a city, 17 percent moved to a suburb and 21 percent moved to another rural area.
  • 52 percent of parents whose grown children who moved away said they did so for a job, and 13 percent said their children had a hard time finding a good job in their hometown.
  • 36 percent of younger rural respondents said the overall number of good jobs available in their community has increased over the past five years, compared to 25 percent of older rural Americans.
  • Most respondents said minorities don't face discrimination in their community with some exceptions: 30 percent said they believe transgender people are discriminated against, 29 percent said recent immigrants to the U.S. are, and 27 percent said gay and lesbian rural residents are discriminated against. Only 9 percent of respondents believe that whites are discriminated against, while 10 percent believe Asian-Americans and discriminated against, and 12 percent believe disabled people are discriminated against.
  • White rural Americans are less likely to believe that minorities are discriminated against than minorities do.
  • Half of the respondents believe their town's problems will be solved in the next five years, and most think the government, especially the state, will play a major role in solving them.

"'Life in Rural America' illustrates that rural Americans have strong ties to local communities and value life, family, and jobs in rural America, On one level, rural Americans express concern about challenges facing local communities, such as money/financial problems, health and health care, and in particular, drug addiction/abuse and troubled local economies. At the same time, residents also report numerous reasons for valuing life in rural communities, and a majority report feelings of attachment to their local communities," the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation summarizes.

The survey was conducted June 6-Aug. 9 with cellphone and landline phone numbers among a nationally representative sample of 1,3000 adults age 18 and up living in the rural U.S. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. Results have a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence level. Rural areas are defined in this survey as areas that are not part of a metropolitan statistical area, as defined in the 2016 National Exit Poll.

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