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Rural Voters Support Preschool as Strategy to Help Local Economy

Most rural Americans support preschool programs to prepare low-income students for school as a way of strengthening rural communities, according to a new survey.

Eighty-five percent of rural voters surveyed in the Great Plains, Midwest, and Southeast said they strongly supported or somewhat supported preschool programs as a way to boost the rural and small-town economy in a survey conducted by the Center for Rural Affairs in Lyons, Neb.

Other areas they ranked high included: helping small and owner-operated businesses and farms get started and grow through loans, tax credits and training; and assisting the working poor in their area through job training.

The poll focused on the role of federal policy in creating economic opportunities for rural residents. It surveyed 804 registered voters in rural communities and small towns and described itself as "the most recent, comprehensive look at rural America."

Only a handful of its questions related to education, and one of those asked residents to rank issues about which they worried on a zero to 10 scale.

The highest score was 6.8 for "dealing with the rising costs of everyday expenses like food and gas." Coming in the middle of the pack at 5.1 was "being able to send your children or future children to college," and that was a bigger concern than "being able to afford a college education/more training" for themselves at 3.9.

The poll found nearly 9 in 10 believed the rural and small-town way of life was worth fighting for.

"But they sadly believe the rural way of life may be fading and they want to stop it, reverse it, and revitalize rural America," said the study's pollsters, the Lake Research Partners, in a statement. "And they believe they are being ignored by politicians and government and blame them for the state of the rural economy."

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