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Where Americans Think They Live

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Benn Stancil, Co-founder & Chief Analytics Officer

May 5, 2014

2 minute read

Last week, FiveThirtyEight’s Walt Hickey wrote a couple of interesting articles about which states are in the Midwest and South. Being from North Carolina—where people definitely consider themselves Southern—I was surprised to see that only two-thirds of all respondents to the FiveThirtyEight survey said North Carolina was in the South.

This made me wonder: How do people from different states define the South and Midwest? And specifically, how do the views of people from who live in a state differ from those of people who don’t live there?

In keeping with their commitment to release an article’s underlying data, FiveThirtyEight published the full survey results on GitHub. Opening this data enables further exploration, as in the interactive graphic below. I looked at how every state in the U.S. views the South and Midwest, and how local opinions compare to national views.

The data reveals many additional findings:

  • People tend to think the South and Midwest are close to them. Western states think the regions extend further west than states on the East Coast.

  • It’s not clear if this is because people perceive the regions this way, or if it’s because they forget about states that are farther away (though this seems unlikely, as it appears respondents were provided a list of states to choose from).

  • I’m not sure where the survey's Wyoming correspondent thinks Alabama is, or Delaware's respondent think most U.S. states are (maybe they, um, I believe, and such as, don’t have maps.)

  • Michigan and Oklahoma are the most geographically contentious states.

  • My intuition about North Carolina was right—95% of North Carolinians see the state as being in the South.

  • Despite people across the country having a mixed view of Arkansas, Arkansans very clearly want to be in the South.

  • By contrast, West Virginians don't agree with their state's Southern reputation.

Explore the data

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