Fact Tank

Nebraskans Give State Government Failing Grades on Pandemic Response, Economic Policy​

Nebraska Voters’ Outlook is commissioned by the Institute and conducted in partnership with Patinkin Research Strategies, LLC January 4 – January 7, 2021 among 616 registered Nebraska voters across the state. Full results are available here. View the research memo here. Press release available here

Respondents believing Nebraska was heading in “the right direction” fell sharply from 64 percent to 46 percent, since similar research was conducted in March of 2020. Respondents believing the state was on “the wrong track” increased from 29 percent to 43 percent over the past 10 months. Similarly, Governor and state Legislature approval ratings have also fallen, 63 percent (March 2020) v. 51 percent (January 2021), and 64 percent (March 2020) v. 53 percent (January 2021) respectively. 

The reasons for Nebraskan’s recent drop in approval of state government leaders become clear when comparing the broad support for policies they believe would best support families, and the perceptions of failure on behalf of Nebraska state government leaders to provide them,” explained Hadley Richters – Holland Children’s Institute CEO. “It’s not surprising during a public health and economic crisis Nebraskans would have even stronger opinions regarding policies they believe would best help them and their families, and the ability of state government to deliver on those policies.” 








When considering the state’s COVID-19 pandemic, respondents were evenly split, with 44 percent believing “the worst is yet to come,” and 44 percent believing “the worst is over.” Nebraskans are experiencing hardship during the pandemic, 36 percent reporting that they, or someone in their household, has been “laid off,” or “had hours reduced, or “taken a pay cut” due to COVID-19. Another 23 percent report they “will have trouble paying bills over the next few months.”















There is overwhelming support for programs designed to provide support during a public health, economic crisis. Nearly seven-in-10 (69 percent) believe it is “extremely important” or “very important” that Nebraska’s Legislature ensure “health care for low-income Nebraskans;” implement an “eviction moratorium” (70 percent); provide “unemployment assistance” (72 percent); and deliver “food assistance” (79 percent) to alleviate suffering amidst the pandemic. 








“The trend of support for these economic policies among Nebraskans is consistently strong,” explains Richters. “Voters have strong opinions on the kinds of economic policy they believe help them and their families, yet a disconnect continues exist among voters’ support and state government’s lack of focus on these policies.”

Seven-in-10 Nebraskans are supportive of eliminating the state’s tipped minimum wage. Strong majorities also favor establishing a paid family and medical leave policy, funded through an income tax on the wealthiest 4 percent of Nebraskans (61 percent) and raising the minimum wage in Nebraska to $15 per hour (56 percent). 




The survey was conducted January 4th through the 7th, 2021 among n=616 registered Nebraskan voters. Approximately n=250 interviews were completed via live calls to landlines and cell phones using professional interviewers (n=257 weighted), n=250 interviews were completed using Dynata’s online panel (n=252 weighted), and an additional n=116 interviews were completed via a text to web platform (n=107 weighted). Telephone interviews were conducted via both landlines and cell phones. Cell phone interviews represent 54% of live calls. The margin of error for the sample is plus or minus 4.0 percentage points at the 95% level of confidence. The margin of error for subgroups varies and is higher.

Nebraska Voters’ Outlook 2019

“Research Reveals Nebraskans’ Support on Policy Priorities, Investments vs. Tax Cuts; Dissatisfaction in Government Performance.”

The Holland Children’s Institute, a Nebraska nonpartisan nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization released recent survey results of the “Nebraska Voters’ Outlook”, a statewide public opinion research initiative measuring Nebraskans’ opinions and views on the issues impacting children and families.

“Nebraskans are in strong agreement on policies the state should prioritize, but show dissatisfaction with government’s performance and focus on those policies, especially when it comes to education ” said Hadley Richters, CEO of Holland Children’s Institute.

“In addition, a clear majority of Nebraskans would rather state government focus on expanding middle-class opportunities, over cutting taxes for families and businesses,” said Richters.

The results reveal overwhelming agreement—sometimes near-unanimity—about the policies that will support and grow the state’s middle class, while significantly divided on how much the state government is currently pursuing those priorities. With most Nebraskans (55 percent) supporting an increased focus on expanding middle-class opportunities, over cutting taxes for families and businesses (42 percent).

The gap between voters’ aspirations and the reality of state government policy emerges most profoundly around education issues. Nebraskans overwhelmingly support increasing state funding for public education and nearly half rate state government’s job performance on K-12 public education as fair or poor (48 percent). Additionally, when asked whether they agree state government is currently underfunding public education, leading to high property taxes and poor educational outcomes, or that state government properly prioritizes and funds public education, more than six-in-ten say state government is not doing enough for public education (61 to 36 percent).

While more than four-in-five (82 percent) voters agree that affordable access to higher education will grow and support the middle class and Nebraska’s economy, only one-in-four (25 percent) agree that state government is making college affordable. Nebraskans are particularly pessimistic about state government’s performance on college affordability, with only 27 percent rating its performance as excellent/good; and 70 percent rating it fair/poor. Likewise, Nebraskans show a strong preference for a more active government role in workforce development. When asked whether they agree with a statement that state government should increase investments in higher education and accessible job training and career, technical, and vocational education or that Nebraska should continue to give tax breaks and incentives to businesses and individuals, more than six-in-ten voters (61 percent) choose increased investment in higher education and job training paradigm.

Overall, Nebraskans demonstrated broad agreement that proposed cuts to state services will have a big impact on the middle class.





Survey Methodology: TargetSmart designed and administered this telephone survey conducted by professional interviewers. The survey reached 600 adults, age 18 or older, who indicated they were registered to vote in Nebraska. The survey was conducted from December, 2018. The sample was randomly selected from TargetSmart’s enhanced voter file. The data were weighted by gender, age, party registration, and region by congressional district to ensure an accurate reflection of the population. The overall margin of error is +/- 4.0%. The margin of error for subgroups is larger and varies. Percentage totals may not add up precisely due to rounding.

Nebraska Values Project – Installment IV

The Nebraska Values Project is a public opinion research initiative of the Holland children’s Institute. In partnership with Myers Research & Strategic Services, a live telephone survey was conducted in early November 2017 to measure public opinion among Nebraska voters on public policy issues and demographic research affecting children and working families across Nebraska.

Nebraskans overwhelmingly support more attention from the state toward building the middle class through investing in healthcare and education at every level, and providing better opportunities for good paying jobs, retirement and benefits.  A broad agreement exists among Nebraska voters – state elected officials should give families the tools they need to succeed, instead of eliminating community programs and further cuts to spending. Across the board – Nebraskans believe state government’s priorities are not aligned with those of voters, and the majority say our elected officials are not looking out for average families in Nebraska, and are focused only on helping corporations and the wealthy.

What Nebraskans believe the state’s priorities should be:

Highlights from Installment IV:

  • Nebraskans placed the highest level of importance on career and vocational training expressing near unanimity (96%) who believe it should be a focus of investment in the state budget and a large majority (67%) saying it should be of major or largest focus.
  • Nebraskans believe that providing incentives to businesses to create quality jobs with benefits, are key components to building a stronger middle class (78%). Paid family leave (71%) and paid sick leave (77%) were also strongly supported.
  • A vast majority of Nebraskans believe expanding after school and voluntary pre-kindergarten will help build a stronger middle class (71%), and free community college classes (69%), and it should be noted that a majority of conservatives favor free community college (60%), and providing parents with state tax credits for early childhood programs (62%).
  • Access to affordable child care is incredibly popular across the board. Among those with children under age 18 at home, nearly all favor expanding access to affordable child care (93%), and of those without children at home are also in favor (69%).
  • Almost unanimously Nebraskans believe the state should be focusing on providing health care services for children (91%), support Medicaid (88%) and providing mental health care (94%).

The margin of error associated with these data at a 95 percent confidence level is +/-4.0 percent. 





Nebraska Values Project – Installment III

The Nebraska Values Project is a public opinion research initiative of the Holland children’s Institute. In partnership with Myers Research & Strategic Services, a live telephone survey was conducted in early November 2017 to measure public opinion among Nebraska voters on public policy issues and demographic research affecting children and working families across Nebraska.

The third release of our public opinion research reveals how Nebraskans feel about the legislature and the Governor. There is a clear disconnect between the economic realities of Nebraska families and where they feel their government is focused. Nebraskans believe the Governor and the legislature have been focused on cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy or doing little to help average families while at the same time a near majority report that they do not have enough savings to cover their bills for at least six months in the case of emergency.

The Disconnect Between State Government and Average Nebraskans

Highlights from Installment III:

  • Across the partisan spectrum, Nebraskans believe state government has been focused on tax cuts and helping big corportations (63%) and the wealthy (64%), while many of them continue to struggle.
  • Similarly, many say that the Governor and legislature are not focused on any issue or do not know which issues on which they have been focused.
  • 56% say state government only does just some, very little or nothing at all to help their own families.
  • When asked if they had enough money saved to cover bills for six months in case of an emergency, 48% said they do not.
  • The only respondents who reported that they have enough savings for at least six months are those over age 50 with a college degree and those without small children.
  • 21% of Nebraskans indicate that they have had trouble affording health care in the past few years, and 14% of voters say that they or someone in their household has actually had to go without medical care when they needed it.

The margin of error associated with these data at a 95 percent confidence level is +/-4.0 percent. 



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Teen Pregnancy

The Holland Children’s Institute released Future Unknown: The Outlook of Teen Pregnancy in Nebraska.  This report was commissioned from the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health to investigate and evaluate the social and economic costs and consequences of teen pregnancy in Nebraska. The findings and recommendations provided in this report are intended to inform efforts to reduce the number of Nebraskans who experience inter-generational poverty.

Click here to view the full report.

Future Unknown: The Outlook of Teen Pregnancy in Nebraska

Click here to view the full UNMC report.