Safety and satisfaction in rural communities
Although the survey finds trying economies realities compounded by a lack of quality health care in rural communities, most adults report being satisfied with their lives. When asked to rate their overall quality of life, about three-quarters (73%) rated it as excellent or good, including about one-quarter (24%) who rated it as excellent.
The poll also found that the vast majority of rural adults think their communities are safe. When asked how safe their local community was from crime, if at all, almost nine in 10 surveyed say it was very (45%) or somewhat (43%) safe from crime. Only 1 percent say their community was not at all safe from crime.
This overall feeling of safety appears unique to rural America and exists in stark contrast to the rest of the country. Only about one in five adults nationally (22%) say their local community is very safe from crime and 5 percent said it’s not at all safe.
Challenges with housing and the digital divide
One-third of rural adults (33%) say homelessness is a problem, including 15 percent who call it a major problem. These rates are substantially higher among rural Native Americans, where half report homelessness is a problem in their local community (50%). More than one in 10 people living in rural America say they have experienced housing problems in their current residence that impacted their health, including the safety of drinking water, mold and other environmental problems.
The survey also revealed that a lack of reliable, broadband (high-speed) internet access has created a major divide between rural and urban communities. About one in five rural adults (21%) say access to high-speed internet is a problem. Those who are using the internet do so for health information (68%), for banking or financing (61%), or for their job or other business-related activities (54%), underscoring the need for reliable high-speed access.
Overall, these findings illustrate that people living in rural America are largely civically and socially engaged, see their communities as safe, and value their quality of life. However, a minority of rural adults struggle with experiences in areas of life that carry major consequences, including financial insecurity, housing problems, trouble accessing affordable, quality health care, and a lack of high-speed internet access.
About the survey
At the start of 2019, researchers interviewed 1,405 rural adults age 18 years and older living in the rural United States. The sampling of respondents contains, by U.S region: South (43%), Midwest (32%), Appalachia (18%); by race/ethnicity: white (78%), Black (8%), Latino (8%), Native American (2%); by age: 50+ years old (53%) and 18–49 years old (47%).