How Popular Is Your State?

Public Policy Polling has run an interesting series of surveys, asking Americans whether they have a favorable or unfavorable view of various states. The question strikes me as odd; it makes sense to have a favorable or unfavorable view of a state’s government, but of the state itself? I would say that I have a favorable opinion of all of the states.

As you might expect, the results show strong partisan trends: Republicans love Texas and dislike California, while Democrats love California and hate Texas. On the other hand, everyone likes Hawaii. The five most popular states, with their favorable/unfavorable numbers in parenthesis, are Hawaii (54/10), Colorado (44/9), Tennessee (48/14), South Dakota (42/8) and Virginia (45/13). The least popular include California (27/44), Illinois (19/29) and New Jersey (25/32).

There are some anomalies. Wisconsin (40/17) is significantly more popular than Minnesota (27/17). What is the difference? The only explanation I can think of is that Wisconsin’s sports teams have been better than Minnesota’s in recent years. Another odd fact: both liberals and conservatives like Minnesota, but moderates disapprove of the state. What could possibly be going on there?

There are a lot of interesting comparisons to be drawn, but one concerns me a little. The mountain states are almost universally popular. Colorado is the second most favorably viewed state, but most of the other mountain states are not far behind, e.g., Montana (39/7) and Idaho (30/11). The anomaly is Utah. At 24/27, it is the fifth-least favorably perceived state.

How can that be? If you like Colorado, Idaho and Montana, why would you dislike Utah? I can’t think of any reason other than anti-Mormon bias. This is borne out by the fact that liberals and Democrats, who are most prone to ethnic and religious bigotry, are the ones who actively dislike Utah. But the numbers are depressed across the board, compared with other mountain states: Republicans only approve of Utah by a 30/23 margin, Independents are the same at 29/23, and Democrats disapprove of the state by 14/32. Moreover, while the very liberal have an unfavorable opinion of Utah (21/43), so do the very conservative (25/32). The very conservative, on the other hand, love Idaho (36/6).

One wonders whether these numbers explain some of the dynamics of the current GOP primary season, and whether they suggest a lingering anti-LDS prejudice that could be a problem for Mitt Romney, if he is the Republican nominee, in November.

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